ONTARIO — Ontario Masonic Lodge, Acacia Lodge 118, members have had much to celebrate recently. In addition to the lodge’s 115th anniversary last year, one of its members, Chuck Locey, of Fruitland, celebrated his 65th year as a Mason this year.
The group honored him at its annual picnic, which was held Aug. 15 in secretary Will Hasley’s backyard.
“I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” Locey said of his time in Freemasonry.
As with all Masonic members, membership has to be self-sought; nobody is asked to join. So it was by chance that Locey found his way into the organization on his 21st birthday, the age a man had to be to join the organization in 1949.
While getting a piece of equipment welded at a blacksmith shop in Vale, the owner noted that he hadn’t seen Locey at a meeting in a while. Locey told the blacksmith that he must have him confused with his dad, and mentioned that he wasn’t old enough to join. But Locey, who turned 21 that day, was eligible, and three months later he was initiated into Vale Lodge 142.
Since then, Locey has been highly involved in the organization. Though he joined in Vale, he eventually transferred his membership to the Ontario Lodge.
Over the years, Locey has been through the chairs at both Vale and Ontario lodges, he said, and has been a worshipful master of both at one time. In fact, when he became master of the lodge in Vale at the age of 24, he was the youngest in Oregon’s history.
There are various groups Masons can enter into, and Locey belonged to many of them, including Scottish Rite, Royal Arch, Eastern Star and Shriners.
He was eventually appointed to the governing body of Shriners Hospitals for Children in Portland and became the ambassador to the potentate — the top ranking member of the organization — for some time.
“It was one of the highlights of my life to be appointed to the board of governors at the hospital,” he said.
During monthly meetings, patients would visit and tell the board how they were progressing. At that time, Locey got to witness first-hand the advancements in medical technology the hospital was making.
There is such a multitude of good things that he has experienced as a Mason that Locey said he couldn’t point to just one thing he has taken away from the experience.
“Except being taught to be a better man,” he said.
The Masons’ primary focus is on self-improvement, but while members work to better themselves, they better their communities, too.
“I think it’s nice that people know we’re there to help, whether they’re members or not,” Locey said.
In addition to annual scholarships, the organization has a grant for those in need, and people don’t have to be members or children of members to apply for it.
“There’s a lot of philanthropy that goes on behind the scenes,” he said.
Ontario Masonic Lodge member Bob Lanterman, who has been with the organization for more than 50 years, has worked on fundraising efforts for the Shriners with Locey, including an annual auction held in Ontario.
“Chuck and I both worked on that along with a lot of other fellows,” Lanterman said. “We’ve done it for years.”
Lanterman has known Locey since long before either entered the Masons.
Locey grew up in Ironside but moved to Ontario to go to school in the eighth grade.
Though membership has dwindled over the years, the Masons are still going strong.
Lanterman and Locey agree that it could be because they can’t ask anybody to join. A lot of people want to join, Lanterman said, but they don’t know they have to ask us.
“We can’t ask,” Locey said, “but we can hint.”
Although his son, Jim, knew that his father, grandfather and many of his uncles were Masons, he never showed much interest. Until one winter he was visiting Locey in Arizona, where he and his wife, Lanita, spend time during the winter.
Jim told his father he’d been watching TV shows about being a Mason and asked how to become one.
“I told him, ‘You made your first step,’” Locey said.
His son will be seated as the worshipful master of his lodge in Spokane, Washington, this fall.
“And I’m so proud of him,” Locey said.