Volume LVIIIMay 2011Number 2

How Pennsylvania Masons Showed Me the Meaning of Freemasonry

Bro. Von Ketelsen of Iowa, as he prepared to embark on a bicycle
journey that showed him the true meaning of Freemasonry.

I became a Master Mason shortly after graduating from Iowa State University in 1985.

Through the years, I often gave presentations at lodges. I'm a communications professional, and I would offer coaching to Masons on how to best get their message across to the media.

Downsizing is an unfortunate reality of being in the media business. I experienced this firsthand in the early 2000s. As a result, I was focused on finding employment. Freemasonry took a back seat in my life. I decided to stop paying Masonic dues.

It wasn't just the cost of paying dues that made me stop paying them. I became a Mason to experience fellowship, not sit through business meetings that took an entire evening.

I'm an avid bicyclist, and I had a dream of seeing the United States by bicycle. In 2007, my mother passed away from cancer, and I was between jobs. I decided to do a solo self-contained bike ride across the United States, in memory of my mother.

About that same time, the Grand Lodge of Iowa was helping the American Cancer Society raise money to build a Hope Lodge in Iowa City. Hope Lodge is like a Ronald McDonald House for adults with cancer.

By this time, I had stopped paying Masonic dues, but I respected the fraternity and still had friends in Freemasonry. I made a trip with some Iowa Masons to Rochester, Minn., to visit the Hope Lodge there. After seeing the help being provided to cancer patients and their caregivers, I knew I wanted to be a part of helping to build a Hope Lodge in Iowa.

In June of 2007, I embarked from Iowa to Washington, D.C. I was quite a sight, on my Trek 520 bicycle, pulling a cargo trailer, complete with my guitar strapped onto it.

By the time I was in Pennsylvania, I was feeling fatigued. I was on a long stretch of bike trail outside of Pittsburgh, and it was pouring rain. The trail I was on was unpaved and muddy. The mud got into my gears and made it hard to pedal.

I needed help, and I knew no one in Pennsylvania. I decided to call the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and see if there was a local Mason who could help me.

The person I spoke with gave me the phone number for Bro. James I. Raupach, Meyersdale Lodge No. 554. Since Bro. Raupach had no idea who I was, I didn't know what to expect when he answered the phone. I explained who I was and the situation I was in. He simply said, "I'll be there in 20 minutes with my truck."

Bro. Raupach helped me load my muddy bicycle into the back of his truck and arranged a place for me to stay that rainy night so I didn't have to sleep in my tent.

The next day, I woke up to blue skies. Bro. Raupach picked me up in his truck and took me to breakfast at a small café. Bro. Raupach's brother, Bro. Guy A. Raupach, Sr., also of Lodge No. 554, was there to meet us. The pangs of homesickness quickly disappeared, as I enjoyed the fellowship of Bro. Ralph and Bro. Guy, fellow Masons. When it came time to pay for the delicious breakfast I devoured, Bro. Ralph said to me, "That's already taken care of."

Bros. Ralph and Guy grew up on a family farm just outside of town. When they offered to drive me to their homeplace and show me around, I knew it was worth taking time for. They also showed me around Meyersdale Lodge.

A week later, I rolled into Washington, D.C. Seeing the Washington Monument, dedicated to Bro. George Washington, stirred in me a deep feeling of pride in being a Mason. I'll always remember that sunny day I arrived in Washington.

And, I'll always remember the rainy day in rural Pennsylvania, when Masons from that state helped a distressed brother from Iowa. The fellowship I experienced during my time with Bro. Ralph and Bro. Guy showed me the real meaning of Freemasonry. I vowed that I would start paying Masonic dues again.

Since then, I've appeared at numerous Masonic lodges and talked about how I found the spirit of Masonic brotherhood that goes back to Bro. George Washington. I sing a few songs with my guitar and talk about the future of Freemasonry.

One thing that hasn't changed since Bro. George Washington's day is the dedication of Freemasons to the actual tenets of the fraternity - charity, relief and brotherly love. I experienced them first-hand on a rainy day in Pennsylvania, compliments of Bro. Ralph and Bro. Guy.

Bro. Von Ketelsen is host of the "Power Lunch," which airs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on AM 540 KWMT, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. You can hear his broadcasts worldwide at www.kwmt.com.

"The most effective way to interest men in Freemasonry is
through the good deeds we do for our fellow men."

-Thomas K. Sturgeon, R.W. Grand Master


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