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Masons not so secret society

Locals discuss fraternity, topic of new novel

November 25, 2009 - Ortonville- The history, symbolism, and mystery of the Masons are central themes in the recently released bestselling novel "The Lost Symbol," by Dan Brown.

Henry Lozier and Al Jawors, local Masons, say it is a common misconception, however, that the Masons are a secret society.

"We're not secret," explains Lozier, treasurer of Ortonville Masonic Lodge 339. "We have a temple right in town, with signs on it. We have secrets within the organization, but we are not a secret society."

Lozier has been a member of the Masons for 26 years, and notes the fraternity is open to any man who wants to join. All that is required is a belief in a Supreme Being. The women have a separate organization, the Order of the Eastern Star.

Lozier's wife of 42 years, Dedra, was a member of this organization and wanted him to join the Masons so he could be an officer with her in the Eastern Star.

Thus began Lozier's journey to becoming a Mason. Masonry has different degrees, which require special rituals to advance. A first degree Mason is an Entered Apprentice, a second degree is Fellowcraft, a third degree is Master Mason, and so on.

"You go through a portrayal of the degree," explained Lozier. "You are blindfolded and given different lessons." The highest degree that can be reached is a 33rd degree Mason. That degree cannot be reached through rituals at the Ortonville Masonic Temple, however, since Scottish Rites are required and something "really special" must be done to earn recognition as a 33rd degree Mason. Lozier was a 32nd degree Mason at one point, but became inactive for a time. When he first joined, he was given a booklet that he had to memorize and recite and he went through the first three degrees in 39 days. Now, it is done in one day with new members.

"There's not much to learn, they've taken most of the memory work out of it," Lozier noted. The Ortonville Masonic Lodge has been in existence since 1874, and the building where lodge members meet today was built in 1910. Masonry, Lozier said, is based on the Book of King Solomon and the building of King Solomon's temple. The Masons themselves go back hundreds of years and are steeped in a rich history. Famous Masons include Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and as noted in "The Lost Symbol," much of the layout of the nation's capitol is based on Masonry because of Washington and other presidents. The dollar bill even has a Masonic symbol on it— the all-seeing eye, which is also stated in "The Lost Symbol." "There are a lot of facts in the book," noted Jawors, who joined the Masons in 1993 and is now Worshipful Master. "The symbols are kind of unique. You have to be a Mason to understand. Once you are aware of Masonic symbols, you always see them." Being a Mason is more than just symbolic, however. Masons nationwide give more than $2 million a day to charity, includes the Shriners, who have four hospitals in the United States who welcome patients who are unable to pay for treatment. Locally, the Masons donate to the Ortonville Community Emergency Fund, give three $500 scholarships to Brandon High School seniors every year, and last year did a "books for bikes" program. Children at each elementary school were allowed to put their name in a drawing for a bike for every eight books they read, and the Masons gave away a girls bike and boys bike at each elementary school. The Masons also host dinners that are open to the public in order to raise funds. "We are an organization that gives to the community," Jawors said. "It is a fraternal organization based on brotherly love. Being a Mason is from your heart. We are trying to increase our membership, but the only thing we can do through our organization is show what we are. There are down times and up times, but we are surviving, as we have for hundreds of years."

The Ortonville Masons have a regular business meeting at 7:30 p.m., the first Tuesday of every month, at their lodge, 21 South Street. Installation of new officers is planned for 7 p.m., Dec. 5.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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