Bro. Ralph Mathew McClinon took as naturally to Freemasonry as anyone I had ever seen. From the moment he came for his pre-application meeting, he demonstrated an active inquiring mind as was full of questions. He won the hearts of his brothers in the Lodge with his humility, good humor, tremendous ambition and his love for his brothers and for the Craft. Ralph had an unforgettable smile and emanated an unmistakable exuberance. Shortly after he was raised, he invited his Brothers as well family and other friends to attend his 25th birthday party. On his cake were the Square and Compasses. He was proud to be a Mason and we were proud to have him, to call him brother and be called brother by him in return.
We knew that Ralph was living with a congenital heart condition. Knowing that his heart could fail him at any time, seemed to give him a wisdom far beyond his years and a full awareness of how precious each day of life was. In June of 2016, Ralph developed serious complications related to a his heart condition and was transported to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio for hospitalization. We monitored and shared news of his condition and his treatment with growing concern as the seriousness of his condition became clear. Ralph, 6 months shy of his 27th birthday, was in need of a life saving heart transplant but was too ill at the time to receive one. His family, his brothers and his friends hoped and prayed that his condition would improve enough that he could have the procedure. There was little more that we could do other than offer our love and our prayers. It was some consolation that Worshipful Reverend Hank Peirce (32nd degree) was able to visit Ralph and his family in Cincinnati and, minister to them, and convey the love and concern of his brothers in Amicable Lodge.
Mostly, we could do little more than hope and pray and reached out to his family to offer support and share our love and concern. Spirits fell as his condition become increasingly grave and then rose with bits of hopeful news. While we did what we could, including packing and sending many of Ralph's belongings to his family in Ohio, many felt helpless to address his most pressing needs.
Many tears were shed when the news came that Ralph had passed. Ralph had wanted a Masonic funeral service and his mother asked that we prepare for one. Word came through other channels that his family was in great financial need. His mother had missed a great deal of work due to his illness and neither she nor his father had resources with which to give Ralph the dignified burial and services he was due.
With a clear mission, Amicable Lodge mobilized for his mother’s relief. We passed the hat so that individual members could donate what they could, we voted to provide a substantial gift from our Relief Fund and we petitioned the Almoner's Fund of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite for support. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts also provided a substantial sum. Everyone came to our brother’s aid, but the most generous support came from the Almoner's Fund. We were moved and humbled that NMJ swiftly and eagerly provided ample support as we tried to ease the material difficulties of our departed brother's family.
Ultimately, ten Brothers of Amicable Lodge made the 14 hour journey to Cincinnati to perform Ralph’s Masonic burial, support his family and deliver the generous relief into his mother’s hands. With the very substantial help of the Grand Almoner's fund, we were able to provide great comfort and aid to our brother's family. This aid not only helped the family through a great crisis, but gave great comfort and pride to all of us at Amicable Lodge as men and Masons.
The story of the drive to Cincinnati and how the fraternal ties and brotherly love of our lodge strengthened and grew is a story for another place and time. The fact that we carried with us the fraternal love and concern, as well as material relief of our Lodge, and all its members, our Grand Lodge, and the NMJ had a profound impact on all of us. We experienced an outpouring of love and respect for the Fraternity from Ralph’s friends and family, impressed by the love and support we showed as his brothers. Three young men who were there for Ralph's services, impressed by what they had seen of Masonry, have asked to join the fraternity.
On a personal note, I had never made a gift to the Grand Almoner's Fund before. I figured I was already supporting many charitable causes and had no need to add one more. But profoundly moved by the kind and generous response of the fund, I went searching for the last solicitation I received and sent my check. I’ve promised myself I will do so every year.
Accompanying group photo (from the reception after Church Services) from left to right:
David Vogel 32'
Sef Gray 3rd
Tyler Brown 3rd
Wor. David Riley 32
Ian Adams 3
Burce Kaplan 3
David Pierre Louis 32
Wor. David Norton 32
Devonte Roach 3rd
Ernesto Fernandez 3
Sean Burke 32'
Accompanying photo from Masonic Burial Service (left to Right):
Devonte Roach 3'
Wor. David Riley 32'
David Vogel 32'
Wor. David Norton 32'
David G. Vogel
Master, Amicable Lodge
Thanks are due to brother Ernesto Fernandez for extensive suggestions for revision.