Masons pay tribute to those buried at historic Evergreen
Published: Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 7:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 7:57 p.m.
Right Worshipful Kurt Morauer, a freemason, stood wearing his Templar uniform, a black military-like outfit adorned with golden shoulder boards and medallions featuring red crosses across the breast.
Atop his head he wore a white-feathered chapeau, and across his waist lay a gold-striped belt that held a gold-hilted sword, which he unsheathed with a white-gloved hand and held up in front of him as Right Worshipful Frederic Latsko began the Knights Templar Memorial Ceremony.
Morauer’s elaborate attire was all part of Masonic Memorial Appreciation Day, which was held Saturday in the historic Evergreen Cemetery in southeast Gainesville.
“Our departed knights were taught that the sword, in the hands of a true and courteous knight, was endowed with three excellent qualities: it’s hilt, with justice impartial; it’s blade, with fortitude undaunted; and it’s point, with mercy unrestrained,” Morauer said to the crowd. “He could never grasp it without being reminded of the attributes it symbolized.”
“And to these attributes, with their deep significance, we renew our pledge. And inspired and heartening hope leads up to the comforting belief that they met their trying hour with fortitude undaunted. And walking in the dawn of a new day, have received justice tempered with mercy unrestrained, which is the glorious attribute of the Son of God.”
With a focus on York Rite freemasonry, which includes the Knights Templar, this year’s Masonic appreciation day featured a recognition of the fraternal order’s grand masters and grand high priests who have been buried at Evergreen and a Knights Templar memorial ceremony.
The history of masonry in Gainesville is as old as the city itself, said Grand Commander Henry Adams; Gainesville was founded in 1854 and incorporated in 1869, while the Gainesville Masonic Lodge was founded in 1857.
Between then and now, he said, the lodge has served the community, and he gave the example of when the lodge housed military troops during World War II.
He also pointed out that Evergreen Cemetary’s founder James Thomas was one of the founding members of the local Masonic lodge.
“So, masonry here in Gainesville has a long history and a long tradition, and its families have been aided in their grief by Evergreen Cemetery, which (is the burial grounds for) many, many of our brothers,” he said during a speech.
Morauer said the lodge is the oldest nonreligious building in Gainesville that is still owned by the original owners and used for its original intent and that masons have had a hand in shaping the area.
“If you go back through the history of the whole area (you’ll find that) the Chesnut family, the Zetrouer family and the Hailes, which are the old families that established (here) — they had the original plantation(s), they were all masons,” he said. “And, over time, the significant business owners, politicians, past presidents of UF (were masons).”
The event began with a Knights Templar procession, which had the knights marching toward the lectern from behind while carrying an American flag and banners called beauceants that each symbolized a commandery in North Central Florida.
Once the flag and beauceants were planted, Morauer welcomed those in attendance and explained that the memorial, which was held for its first time last year, is a product of happenstance that resulted from his attending an American Legion Post ceremony where he met Jimmy Brown, the cemetery’s historian. Morauer asked how many masons were buried on the grounds, to which Brown replied that the cemetery was actually trying to determine just that and was looking for someone to help them identify Masonic symbols.
“It was one of those timing-cosmic things that has just turned out very well,” said Morauer.
He then explained that they have discovered that more than 300 masons are buried within the grounds, and spoke of plans to hold such an event annually.
Shortly after, Henry Adams, grand commander, recognized past grand masters and grand high priests who lay buried in the cemetery, which was followed by County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson, who officially proclaimed the day as Masonic Appreciation Day in Alachua County.
Finally, the memorial ceremony was held in tribute to all those masons who lay beneath the soil at Evergreen.
The event was open to the public, which may run counter to what many think of when they think of freemasons.
“The reality is that outside of the secretiveness of what we do — and we’re not a secret society, although we have secrets in our degree work that we don’t let out to the public. But if you’ve seen the History Channel, you’ve seen most of them anyway — we do a lot of public work, both locally and nationally,” said Morauer. “We’re known a lot for our charity work.”
Morauer explained that to be a mason, one has to simply believe in a supreme being of any denomination and that they are not allowed to talk about religion, politics or have alcohol in their lodges.
Meanwhile, he said, the Knights Templar are the only distinctly Christian part of masonry.
“For me, masonry is about doing studies and having a fraternal support network that makes me a better person, which in consequence makes me a better father, a better husband and a better participant in my community,” he said. “A lot of it really is taking a higher moral ground and a higher ethical ground.”
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