DeMolay Makes Good Men - Most Make Good Masons
The Order of DeMolay and Freemasonry are so intertwined that they complement and support each other. DeMolay is not a training ground for Masons and is careful not to recruit members for the Craft, but there can be no doubt that it is easy for young members and their families to gain favorable impressions through their interactions. This is well exemplified by Keith A. Bortz, Jr., State Master Councilor of DeMolay in Pennsylvania, and now a Mason in Union Lodge No. 479, Birdsboro, PA.
The day that Bro. Bortz became a Mason is recorded as Jan. 24, 2002, when fellow DeMolay Past State Master Councilor Brent D. Richards conferred his Entered Apprentice Mason's Degree. However, identifying when Keith first sought in his heart to become a Mason isn't as easy. It occurred sometime after Oct. 25, 1995, when he joined Reading Chapter, Order of DeMolay. That was a turning point in his life and it had a profound effect on his whole family.
Keith has said: "I joined DeMolay because one of my friends told me about this "really cool" group . . . (and) invited me to a Chapter open house. I was sold on the program . . . I would have the chance to meet people from many other school districts."
Ray Gottschall, P.M., Reading Lodge No. 549, Chairman of Reading Chapter's Advisory Council, remembers Keith as "a quiet, sensitive young man who didn't say much but had a reputation for reliability and showed lots of promise." It didn't take long for the DeMolay experience of public speaking, ritual performance, leadership training, and social development to work its magic on Keith.
His mother, Joy Bortz, explained: "DeMolay has made a great difference. When he joined ...he was shy and unsure of himself. When the advisor asked him about running for Junior Councilor, he thought he couldn't handle the public speaking and almost turned it down. Look at him today! I have seen him make impromptu speeches that just amaze me. DeMolay gave Keith a belief in himself ..."
At age 16, Keith came late to DeMolay. Most members were younger, so his opportunity to advance came soon after his initiation -- but it still took four years to get him to serve as Master Councilor in June of 1999. A year later, he was called on again to serve as Master Councilor. Another year later, based on his reputation for reliability, he was elected State Master Councilor for all of Pennsylvania. Bro. Gottschall observed, "(This youth) who spoke so softly and was unsure of his talents has grown into the self-assured young man whose leadership skills are undeniable . . . a testament to what DeMolay can do!" -- an example that personifies Freemasonry's mission of H.O.P.E. to youth in "Helping Others Pursue Excellence."
Keith said, "I can't pinpoint one event that made me decide to become a Mason, but the more time I spent at the Center (Reading Masonic Center where his DeMolay Chapter meets) and the more Masons I talked to, the more I realized that I wanted to be a part of this group. Then my father and grandfather became Masons and that just sealed the deal."
It is not uncommon for fathers of DeMolays to make the decision to join the Fraternity. As they become involved with the Chapter's activities, they have the same experience of learning about the Craft along with their sons. It was a double bonus for Union Lodge to get both Keith Bortz, Sr., and his father, Kenneth Bortz, at the same time. Ken has since been elected as the Lodge Treasurer.
Keith, Sr. observed, "Being involved with DeMolay put me in close contact with the Fraternity . . . (and) I realized just what the subtle hints and conversations I had with my grandfather (Charles Focht) years ago actually meant."
His father recalled numerous conversations in which Keith expressed a desire to join the fraternity. That was enough to prompt Keith's parents to present him with what he really wanted for his 21st birthday-- a petition, and money for the initiation fee.
Keith chose to petition Union Lodge "in large part because of the family history that was there . . ." It is his intention to "go through the chairs" eventually with his father, who had been in the officer corps previously, but dropped out when DeMolay needed him in the key leadership position and as the Chapter Advisor. The father has decided that when Keith is ready, he would start again and go through the line with him.
Ray Gottschall, who conferred Keith's Fellowcraft Degree, remembers the impact that his DeMolay Advisors had on him, and knows how well Freemasonry in Reading benefits from supporting the DeMolay Chapter. He sums it up nicely: "I looked at Keith years ago and said, 'What a Mason he will make!' DeMolay helps to build good men. It gives them the experience and the knowledge and the ability that lodges need today--It gives them leadership. Not every man should be a Mason, but most DeMolays would make good Masons."
State Master Councilor is Center of Focus When DeMolay Leadership Confers Degree