Their insignia is displayed in nearly every town, their name is known worldwide, but to many the organization remains a mystery.
They’re the Freemasons, the oldest fraternal organization in the world, and South Whidbey’s lodge, or chapter, is looking forward to a century of charity and brotherhood when the calendar hits 2017.
And although their charity work is the most visible arm in public view, Masons agree that it’s the supportive brotherhood that has held the most importance all these years.
“We talk about the things we do for others, but what really impresses me is what we do for each other,” 95-year-old Mason Milo Milfs said. “I’ve never seen an organization like the Langley Lodge, where members are helping each other, helping their families and helping widows. You don’t find that very often.”
The Masons at the Langley Lodge are a varied group, including a psychology professor, Langley City councilman, businessmen, mechanics and veterans of the armed forces. Freemasons around the world represent a range of professions and religions, and include members who left a lasting mark on the world such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, George Washington and Oscar Wilde. Famous South Whidbey masons include some of its earliest pioneers, such as Jacob Anthes, Walter Hunziker and Neil Grigware.
“I joined because the men I knew that were Masons were leaders in my community,” Mason Tony Gill said. “But the camaraderie is the most important aspect. Coming out of the military, there was a lot of camaraderie and trust, and the Masons have that.”
The Langley Lodge’s philanthropy has always been focused on South Whidbey’s youth. In the past five years, the local Masons have awarded $12,000 in college scholarships to high school juniors. The lodge’s longstanding Bikes for Books program annually provides eight bikes and helmets to students who participate in the school’s reading program, while this past year the Masons donated $300 to each elementary school teacher for supplies. They regularly fund Ryan’s House for Youth, and in 2014 funded South Whidbey Robotics’ Team Atlantis ROV to help the team compete in Romania.
“Kindergarteners are known for needing more hands-on supplies,” Kindergarten teacher Karyn LeWarne said. “Without this generous contribution from the Freemasons, we would have typically had to ask parents to help contribute more or purchase materials ourselves.”
Although the Langley Lodge has spent a century doing this sort of charitable work, the local Masons continue to focus on the support they give each other. Being a Mason is a lifetime experience, and many continue to be supported all the way to the grave. That includes their families, as Gill pointed out that Masons lend a helping hand to widows.
For the local Masons, joining the Langley Lodge entails building everlasting bonds.
“It’s a lifetime experience, you don’t walk in or out,” President Carl Fjelsted said. “For me, it’s all about the friendships you build and the trust you build with each other. The group will be supportive no matter what you do.”
Those interested in the organization are invited to the lodge’s monthly dinners at 6:30 p.m. of the fourth Tuesday of every month, except December.