There’s a 95-year-old woman who has been made happy by some boys she doesn’t know.
They’re Auntie Grace’s children. Well, that’s what she calls them, anyway.
Auntie Grace’s husband and brother both joined one of the local Lodges after World War Two. Pretty soon, she got involved with the new Job’s Daughters Bethel which started not far from her little home. Regal DeMolay Chapter was formed there, too, by members of Beaver Chapter in Vancouver. Year in, and year out, decade after decade, there was Grace, at almost every conceivable function organised by the girls or the boys. Always lending her encouragement and reminding us all how much we meant to her.
Times have been tough for fraternal groups over the last number of years. Grace’s Bethel closed. Her Bethel’s daughter-Bethel closed. Regal DeMolay Chapter closed in the mid ’80s and some of the few remaining members moved across the city boundary to Vancouver and Beaver Chapter. The best part of it was Auntie Grace came in the deal.
The members of Beaver Chapter loved Grace. They loved her so much they did something never done before in the history of DeMolay. They made her Chapter Sweetheart for Life. They even gave her a banner in a little public ceremony.
The guys in Beaver grew out of their teens and vanished into the world of adulthood, but Auntie Grace stayed on. Every meeting sitting with the mothers, and every installation, there she was to give her unconditional love to the dwindling numbers of teenagers who found an interest in the Order of DeMolay.
Beaver Chapter finally faded away. The Chapter’s porch book quietly states it held its last meeting in early 2002, the bulk of those signing were in their early 20s and few new members had joined in a number of years.
There became less and less of DeMolay for Auntie Grace’s boundless moral support, fewer and fewer boys to hear her kind and thoughtful words. Finally, this year, there was one Chapter left in the whole province, with not even enough active members to fill all the offices.
But then something happened. I got a phone call.
We’ll skip my life story but suffice it to say I’m a Senior DeMolay who was connected with Beaver’s Advisory Council through parts of the 1980s and ‘90s. And I had assisted in re-starting another dormant Chapter during that time. That Chapter has ceased operating again, leaving behind a couple of guys who live in Beaver’s old territory.
One of them called me. He explained they wanted to start a Chapter in Vancouver and they asked their dad what to do, and their dad asked the head of the local Filipino-Masonic group what to do, and what to do was to call me. Calling me seems to be a solution to many problems in the Masonic world (even in the Filipino one, even though my family was originally from Scotland).
So, I agreed to help as best as I could, if they found enough guys to form a Chapter and if they knew of enough interested adults to act as Advisors.
And they did.
They spent the entire summer, once a week, drilling the prospective members in the cardinal virtues of DeMolay, the structure of the Order, what it expected of its members. While most teenaged boys are having fun over the summer, these guys were being tested on how much they knew about DeMolay and had to pass before being allowed to be initiated.
In the meantime, a couple of Senior DeMolays in my Lodge called around and, at too-close-to-the-last-minute, dredged up some of the guys who were members when they were in and cobbled together a very makeshift degree team. There was no practice, and some last-minute confusion (we had three Seventh Preceptors at one point) but the guys who used to drive me nuts as an Advisor 15 years ago walked in like they had never left and instinctively conferred the two degrees on ten young men (two others were sick and missed the ceremonies).
The young men received surprise news at their meeting this weekend that they have received permission to operate as a Chapter and Letters Temporary had been sent to the Executive Officer.
The first phone call, after confirming the date and the availability of a meeting place, went to Auntie Grace. For a number of years she was hoping someone, anyone, would re-form her adopted Chapter so she could again put on her banner and come and see more of the young men she considers her sons.
She’ll get a chance to meet her new sons at their institution and installation on November 7th.
Some day, maybe I’ll write the story of what DeMolay means to me and how it changed my life, a story that many others could no doubt write. But, for now, you’re getting a better story. One of a dear, sweet woman, and how a group of young men worked together to make her happy.