Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Shalom to Milty and Joe

Sigh. For the third time in as many months, and the second time this month, I've had to pull the Masonic funeral tie out of the closet. It's being a bad year for my Lodge. It's faintly depressing to realize that I've memorized the route to Stanetsky's funeral home in Swampscott.

Both guys deserve some thoughts, so here are a few rememberances:

Milton Locke (affectionately known as "Uncle Milty" by much of the lodge) was one of the founders and mainstays of Ocean Lodge -- one of the guys who, back in the 60s, decided that if the local Lodges weren't going to admit Jews (as many of them wouldn't at the time), they would just have to create their own. A Mason for most of his 91 years, he was an exemplar of how to be devoted to the Fraternity. He knew that he was one of the senior members, and took that role very seriously -- indeed, when Ocean Lodge was fading and needed to merge, Milty played a key role in negotiating with Hammatt Lodge, and ensuring an unusually smooth transition.

Milty was never all that focused on the Craft, but he knew his ritual, and was damned proud of it. He was unusually good at one of the key roles (Third Ruffian) in the Third Degree, and whenever we had a Past Masters' Night (generally once a year), he would always claim it. Experienced Masons will probably understand when I say that us young'uns sometimes changed the ritual (under our breath, of course) to "That is the voice of Milton Locke!" In later years, he ensconced himself in the role of Associate Marshal, and took a lot of joy in getting the lodge meetings started.

I always thought of Milty as sort of the "cruise director" for the Lodge -- the guy who is concerned with making sure people are having a good time, and making every meeting the best party possible. I believe that he was the primary force behind our old traditional Steak and Lobster Night (free for any members or family who had donated blood in the past year). And as a lieutenant in the Great Kaplan Liquor Empire (aka Kappy's, owned by Ralph Kaplan, another member of the Lodge), he would always make sure that we were properly stocked up with preposterous amounts of booze for Table Lodges.

Milty faded fairly gradually, but kept his humor almost to the end. He got a little forgetful in the last few years, but everyone indulged him as one would a favorite uncle. (The most painfully humorous moment was at an Annual Meeting a few years ago. As the representative of the Trustees, he read through the prepared report one page at a time, flipping through them until he got to the end -- and then looped and kept going. We weren't quite sure how to politely tell him to stop, but fortunately he twigged after repeating the first page or two.)

One of the friendliest guys I've ever known; he'll definitely be missed. The Lodge is just a little less bright without him...

If Milty was the heart of the Lodge, Joe Sherriff was its voice. Lodges don't formally have cantors, but that's essentially the role he played. He was particularly fond of serving as Marshal -- his signature song was Shalom, which he would sing as he closed the Lodge down. I gather that he was rather famous around town for his crooning, back in the day.

I didn't know Joe well: he was already drifting into semi-activity by the time I started, and has been heavily gafiated due to age for most of ten years now. But he'd still come back and sing for us occasionally, perhaps once a year, and that was a treat. Even in his latter days, when his voice began to fail, it was still distinctly homey to have him sing it -- it was a trademark of the Lodge, and felt right. Another one I'll miss, and at only 78 taken from us a bit earlier than many...

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