GREENVILLE — Ohio Freemasons honored a 70-year member from Darke County in a special ceremony at the Brethren Retirement Home Wednesday evening.
Kenneth Stryker, 94, of Masonic Lodge No. 295 in Arcanum, was presented a 70-year membership pin by Grand Lodge of Ohio Senior Grand Warden Richard Dickerscheid. According to local Mason and Union City councilman Brad Horsley, a 25, 35 or 40-year pin can be presented by the master of a local lodge while the 70-year pin requires a Grand Lodge officer and beyond requires the presence of the Grand Master of Ohio Lodges himself.
Stryker grew up in Darke County, near Ithaca; he married his wife, Anna Lee, while serving in the Navy and holds a master’s degree from Miami University in Oxford. Stryker’s wife was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, a women’s group affiliated with the Masons, before Stryker himself joined at the age of 24.
Stryker was presented with his 70-year pin during the ceremony, as well as a plaque commemorating his service to the organization, an award certificate signed by the Grand Master and Grand Secretary of the Ohio Lodge and a special coin representing the Arcanum lodge specifically.
“This is one of the best parts of our job,” presenter Richard Dickersheid, who owns an automotive repair company with his wife, Teri, in Cincinnati, told The Daily Advocate. “Talking to these older members, listening to their reflections and hearing what they have to say.”
Teri Dickersheid agreed.
“Seeing him present these awards — it’s one of my favorite things to go do with him,” she said.
The Freemasons began as a guild of stonemasons in England about 300 years ago, according to Matthew Brookey, district education officer for Masonic lodges in Darke County. Masons are typically men, at least 19 years of age, who are recommended by an already existing member. A new recruit, called an entered apprentice, undertakes a series of projects to become a Master Mason, at which point he can become an officer in the lodge he attends. It generally takes about eight years to become master of a single lodge and even longer to rise higher in the organization.
Community involvement is a big part of freemasonry. Members of the Gettysburg lodge have helped purchase equipment for the Gettysburg Fire Department while Ohio lodges as a whole frequently donate to the Ohio Masonic Home — an assisted living community with facilities in Springfield, Medina and Waterville — and the Special Olympics. Lodges in Troy and Tipp City have also done work in the community.
Thomas Hutchens, worshipful master of the Arcanum Masonic Lodge, helped arrange Wednesday evening’s event.
“I’m the one who’s been after everybody and trying to get this thing done without being too much of a pain,” Hutchens said. “I’ve never seen a 70-year pin being presented, so I wanted to make sure it got done right.”