2019 - 2020 Year In Review

The 2019 – 2020 Masonic Year for the Valley of Danville will long be remembered more for how it ended with the Coronavirus Pandemic than for its excellent start and hope for the future. With a full year in our new positions, myself as Commander-In-Chief, Executive Secretary Robert A. Gill, and Administrative Director William J. Hussey, Jr, 33ᵒ had found a way to “bring back the fun” in Fellowship and Brotherhood to the Valley of Danville. We had just finished the prior year with an exciting Spring Reunion with the Grand Master of the State of Illinois as the class honoree. We would witness the work of a group of fine young men and a few advisors turn the idea of a Valley sponsored DeMolay Chapter into reality in just a few short months. How could we not be filled with hope for the ensuing Masonic year? Our executive leadership team continued to lead our Valley with outside the box thinking and the return of some “old school” Masonic traditions. One thing we all knew would continue is that our Office Administrative Assistant Christine would keep all of us on the right path forward.

Forward we continued to move in June with a celebration of two good men and masons at the Annual ICDO convocation as C. James Hegg and J. Bruce Thompson each received the Meritorious Service Award. Also in Springfield, we heard the names of Timothy R. Shimer and Gary W. Parker read as next year’s MSA recipients.

In July, the Annual Valley Picnic was held at the GAO Grotto on Lake Vermilion with the invitation extended to Masonic Lodges to attend.

The 2nd Annual Steak Dinner was provided to our 32 Club members of which each made an annual donation equal to 32 cents a day ($116.80) for the building fund. Nine members of the Valley of Danville traveled to Milwaukee for the 207th Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council, AASR, NMJ, USA. We all had great concern for the health and welfare of our Valley Active for Illinois the Illustrious James L. Tungate following a fall on his return from directing an early practice of the 33ᵒ. Illustrious Brother Tungate’s condition was serious but his fighting spirit continues to carry him forward to recovery. It was with great joy and enthusiasm that we celebrated with our newest 33ᵒ member, the Illustrious Bo Cook 33ᵒ.

A September 7th traveling degree day that was scheduled as an outdoor event, hosted by Flat Rock Lodge at the Goodwine Family Farm, was moved to Robinson Lodge in conjunction with a Grand Master’s Festival. Fifteen members of the Valley of Danville assisted with the Blue Lodge degree work and lunch was provided by the Valley of Danville for all that attended. All were also invited to attend the Danville Lodge of Perfection’s, open to the public, presentation of the Feast of Tishri held that afternoon in Robinson Lodge. Robinson Lodge is located in the southern region of the Valley of Danville. Later in September a second traveling degree day was hosted by Chebanse Lodge, located in the northwest realm of the Valley of Danville. DVD and live degree work were presented with a candidate in attendance. Also in September, Valley of Danville members increased their efforts to attend 3rd degree work within the Valley’s service area. In September, not less than 82 Valley of Danville Scottish Rite Masons attended lodge degree work for 13 new Master Masons from four Illinois Blue Lodges. At the conclusion of the degree work, each new Master Mason was given a gift of a Master Mason lapel pin and a Valley of Danville business card with contact information. At the time of the presentations, all Scottish Rite Masons were asked to stand showing the support of the Blue Lodge by the Scottish Rite members.

In late October, Valley of Danville members teamed up with Newton Lodge to build an access ramp at the home of a Brother that would soon be returning home after an extended hospital and nursing home stay. Special thanks to Valley members Ronald Croy for helping to obtain building material for the project and Kenton R. Leonard for being our lead builder. The summer and fall events were designed to build excitement leading to our Fall Reunion.

The November 1st and 2nd Reunion was special as we had the opportunity to celebrate Illustrious Brother Harry C. Kuchenbrod, 33ᵒ as the class honoree. Illustrious Brother Kuchenbrod is our oldest living past Commander-In-Chief, leading the Valley of Danville in 1988-89. At the age of 83, he also was the furthest traveled reunion attendee as Harry drove himself from Pensacola, Florida for the weekend. A total of nine Master Masons joined the Valley of Danville that weekend.

Illustrious Brother Gregory L. Clark, 33ᵒ Deputy for Illinois attended our December Board Meeting with the exciting announcement that Illustrious Brian L. Pettice 33ᵒ was named the Deputy’s Representative for the Valley of Danville. Also in December, a Christmas Party for the local Masonic Lodges was hosted by the Valley of Danville, the GAO Grotto, and the Eastern Illinois Shrine Club in the dining room of the Valley building. In late December, Valley of Danville members presented the play December’s Rose directed by 1st Lt. Commander Illustrious Sean Patrick McBride 33ᵒ to assist the three Paris Lodges, the Paris York Rite Bodies, and the Order of Eastern Star in a fundraiser for Faith in Action of Paris.

With a new year, during the calendar to 2020, the focus turned to the Spring Reunion scheduled for March 27th and 28th. The Illustrious B. Stephen Daugherty, 33ᵒ was named the class honoree. Illustrious Brother Daugherty is a Past Sovereign Prince, Past Commander-In-Chief, and Past At-Large Director for the Valley of Danville. To build excitement toward the Spring Reunion, three groups of elected officers from each of the four coordinate bodies planned events. Each of the three planning groups would have four members, one each from of the four Bodies, and be led by a Consistory officer.

The 2nd Lt. Commander’s group planned Lodge events in three different areas of the Valley service area with events in Tolono Lodge, Palestine Lodge, and Watseka Lodge. The events provided opportunities for Master Masons to learn more about the Scottish Rite and non-Masons to learn more about the local Masonic Lodge. The relaxing and fun events offered information that benefited both the Lodge and Scottish Rite. At each event, a meal or refreshment was provided.

The 1st Lt. Commander’s Group planned a dinner in the Valley Building followed by a fun family night of Danville Dasher's professional hockey. The event was a success with more than 50 in attendance for the Saturday, February 8th event. The Commander-In-Chief’s group planned a dinner for Saturday, March 14th just two weeks before the Spring Reunion. The planning included a Lasagna Dinner to follow the Valley of Danville Ancient Craft Degree Team’s tuxedo conferral of a Blue Lodge 3rd Degree and a live presentation of the new 4th Degree.

The Valley of Danville was pleased to participate in the State-Wide Reunion held in Bloomington on March 7th and 8th. Several of our officers and members attended the two-day event in Bloomington enjoying great fellowship and excellent degree presentations. The Valley of Bloomington stage crew was simply fantastic to work with. They remained flexible and always ready for the unexpected needs of the visiting Valley.

The following week brought the beginning of the cancellation and postponement of events. We conducted our Stated Board of Directors meeting as scheduled on the 2nd Wednesday in March. The regular board meeting was the last event we had open to the membership. The event scheduled for March 14th including the ACDT 3rd Degree, 4th Degree presentation, and the dinner honoring Illustrious Brother Daugherty was the first event canceled. A special meeting of the Valley of Danville Board of Directors was called for Saturday morning March 14th. The hope that the Reunion could be postponed to a date a few weeks away was quickly dashed by the reality that cancellation was our only option.

A good suggestion came, during that otherwise gloomy meeting, from our Deputy’s Representative that this would be a good time for us to revitalize our Brother to Brother calling program. In the time that we have been separated by the Coronavirus Pandemic, several Valley of Danville members have now made contact with nearly half of our membership. The members of the Valley of Danville are being reached by a phone call not asking for dues, a donation, or participation in an event, but just asking how they are and how can we help. The needs of the membership are being heard and assistance given. The gratitude of the members receiving the call is its own reward.

The Annual Valley of Danville Feast of the Pascal Lamb was another casualty of the pandemic. However, Most Wise Master Christopher J. Hathaway and other talented members of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix created an excellent video production that was a beautiful tribute to our departed brethren.

Though we have been unable to meet in person, the special guidelines of the Deputy for remote board meetings by Zoom have given the Valley leadership the opportunity to meet by internet and phone to continue to perform the essential business of the Valley. Special thanks to our executive leadership team for setting up and hosting those meetings.

On June 10th we conducted our Annual Meeting by Zoom. This meeting included the opening of, holding of elections in, and closing of each of the four coordinate bodies as well as the Board of Directors. I’m not sure the meeting could have been any better given our current situation. We are not yet finished with this extended Masonic Year as our Installation of Officers will take place at the Beef House Banquet Hall in Covington, Indiana on the evening of Saturday, June 27th. We will come together, while practicing social distancing protocols, to celebrate the passing of this year and the hope that comes with the new.

Submitted by Jerry H. Askren, 33° Commander in Chief, Valley of Danville May 2018 - June 2020

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