Volume LIIIMay 2006Number 2

Meet Some of our Youngest Worshipful Masters...

Bro. William G. Johnston, Worshipful Master of Crafton Lodge No. 653, with his father, Bro. William D. Johnston, P.M.

William G. Johnston of Pittsburgh, Pa., was Raised on March 21, 2003, at the age of 18 by his father, William D. Johnston, P.M., and three uncles, James, Robert and Dwain. Today, at age 21, he is Worshipful Master of Crafton Lodge No. 653.

"I joined as soon as I was eligible, because I had been around Freemasonry all of my life," Bro. Bill said. "I enjoyed DeMolay and wanted to continue my family tradition."

After having served as Master Councilor of Fidelity Chapter, Order of DeMolay, and earning the Representative DeMolay Award and the Degree of Chevalier, he knew that he would come in onto the Lodge floor as he did in DeMolay, utilizing his experience in running and leading programs. His Lodge's Senior Warden, Jonathan D. Ballinger, is a friend of his from DeMolay.

Bro. Bill lost no time in becoming adept at conferring degrees. The memory work came easily to him. Still, he was surprised at how quickly he rose through the chairs.

"I didn't expect to do it this fast, but I was qualified and my Lodge brothers thought it was a good time to let the 'young blood' take over," he stated. "I have adapted the same skills I learned in DeMolay to lead an organization; this is just a different phase."

The Lodge, he noted, needed a spark that the younger guys could provide. "A lot of people came out at first, probably because they were interested to see if we would make it or break it," Bro. Bill said, "but they discovered we can do a good job." As a result, attendance has stayed up.

"Something you hear all the time in DeMolay is, 'our youth is the future,'" he added. "It's a shame there are not more men joining at a young age."

In addition to his Master's duties, Bro. Bill also serves as Orator of Gourgas Lodge of Perfection, Valley of Pittsburgh, and will become Senior Warden in June. He works for Simpson Express, a family-owned trucking company.

Bro. Gregory K. McKnight, Worshipful Master of Sharpsville Lodge No, 517, with his father, Keith A. McKnight, P.D.D.G.M.

Gregory K. McKnight, 27, of Transfer, Pa., was Raised on November 10, 2001, at age 22. As a teenager, he remembers not understanding why his father, Keith A. McKnight, P.D.D.G.M. of Masonic District 53, spent so much time in the Craft. But now, as Worshipful Master of Sharpsville Lodge No. 517, he realizes the motivation for his father's commitment.

A few incidents endeared Bro. Greg to Freemasonry. He recalls a trip to Hershey, Pa., in 1995, when their old conversion van lost its brakes around Latrobe, Pa. Not knowing anything about dealerships in the area, his dad pulled his Gold Book out and called Bro. Dick Stemmler, then District Deputy for District 30, to ask him for recommendations for a local motel and a dealership. But Bro. Dick went one step further.

"His (Bro. Dick's) wife insisted that we stay at their house. It may have been the first time they ever met each other, but they knew they could trust each other because they were both Masons," Greg recalls.

"The thing that really got me was my dad's retirement party from his District Deputy position in Spring 2001 near Greenville, Pa. People came from all over the state and Canada, and it hit me - this must be what Freemasonry is all about," he said. Where else would you meet all of these nice people? he thought.

In addition to his father, Greg's brother, Jared J. McKnight of Columbus, Ohio, joined the Craft in 2000 and his late grandfather, Clarence A. McKnight, was a member, too.

Bro. Greg also credits mentors in his Lodge who taught him the degrees and encouraged him to go through the chairs. "The story lines of all the degree work seemed very interesting, and I enjoyed doing them. I thought I could serve my Lodge as best as I could by going through the chairs, and that it would help me grow more as a man. Freemasonry has done a lot of that for me," he noted.

Bro. Greg also cherishes the friends he makes everywhere he goes. "There are so many friends we've made ever since my dad joined in 1983," Bro. Greg said. "He and my mom both say that if they knew they would get out of it (Freemasonry) what they have, he would've joined much earlier than he did."

Jason Craig, Worshipful Master of Valley Lodge No. 459 in Masontown, Pa., with his brother, Justin Craig; his father, William F. Craig, Jr., P.M.; and Bro. Christopher Hodapp, P.M., author of "Freemasons for Dummies" (he was the speaker at Bro. Jason's first stated meeting).

Jason F. Craig of Bobtown, Pa., was Raised on May 21, 2002, at age 23.

"As far back as I can remember, there were plaques, pictures and other items around the house displaying the Square and Compasses, but I didn't know what they were," he remarked. "My (paternal) grandfather, William F. Craig Sr., would also bring my brother and me T-shirts that said 'My Grandpa is a Shriner' when he came to visit. Eventually, my dad sat down and began discussing the fraternity with me. The rest is history."

While Bro. Jason would have been interested in DeMolay during his youth, the closest chapter was 45 miles away.

"I have a fairly large Masonic group in my family. My brother, father, both grandfathers, an uncle and about a half dozen cousins are all members of the fraternity," he said.

When Bro. Jason joined, the minimum age was still 21. Shortly after he joined, however, the age limit was lowered to 18, which immediately made his brother and one of his cousins eligible to join. "Since my father sat as Worshipful Master for my 3rd degree, I assumed (correctly) that he would do the same for my brother. I wanted to take part in the ceremony, so I decided to learn to confer the first and second degrees over the summer. That fall, I presided over my brother's Initiation and my cousin's Passing. Then I served as the guide for my brother's Raising. After putting that much effort forth, I decided to continue serving the fraternity by going through the chairs," he recalls.

"Without a doubt, what I enjoy about Freemasonry the most is the fellowship. I have met so many people I would have otherwise never had contact with," he stated. "Taking advantage of the opportunities to travel to other jurisdictions and learn about different customs and rituals has also been very enlightening."

Jesse A. Strausberger, Worshipful Master of Lehighton Lodge No. 621, with his father, Bro. Bruce A. Strausberger, P.M.

Jesse A. Strausberger, age 22, of Lehighton, Pa., is the 106th consecutive Worshipful Master of Lehighton Lodge No. 621; significant, he says, because since its establishment in 1900, there has never been a repeating Master.

Bro. Jesse petitioned the Lodge when he was 18 years old with a friend of his whose father was also a member of the Lodge - right after the age requirement was lowered from 21. His first degree was conferred by his father, Bro. Bruce A. Strausberger, P.M. Jesse considers that to be one of the most important highlights of his Masonic experience.

About a year prior to joining, Bro. Jesse became intrigued by his father's commitment to working on a project to help a family in the local community. "It impressed me that an organization would make such an effort to help others without benefit to itself, or ever asking for recognition; just having helped was reward enough," he stated. "They were the kind of men I wanted to be associated with."

In addition to his father, he has three uncles and a cousin who are also members of his Lodge.

Since he was Raised on December 12, 2002, he sat on the sidelines for just one meeting. Then he began working in the chairs; first as Senior Deacon, then Junior Warden (while his father was Worshipful Master), Senior Warden and now Worshipful Master.

"I was amazed at the degree work that was done by the members of my Lodge and had to be a part of it," he remarked. "Besides, you always hear that you get out of Freemasonry what you put into it. However, I feel that you get more out than you put in."

Being Worshipful Master is definitely a learning experience, he says, but it has helped him to become a better public speaker, learn to organize events, plan programs and budgets and to gather input from several sources and combine that information into a useful, effective plan of operation. He appreciates all the help he has received from Past Masters and Officers of his Lodge.

Bro. Jesse enjoys doing ritualistic work and mentoring new candidates. "I remember how astonished I was when I received my degrees, and I enjoy passing that onto others," he said. He also cherishes the friendships he has made.

An automotive mechanic, Bro. Jesse makes time to also be involved in the Valley of Allentown, Tamaqua Chapter No. 177 of Royal Arch Masons, Anthracite Council No. 62 of Royal & Select Master Masons, Commandery No. 23 of Knights Templar and Rajah Shrine.

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