Germania Lodge's 175th Anniversary Celebration Speech by Worshipful Brother Klaus "Joe" Kueck about reflections of the last 25 years of Germania Lodge.
by Worshipful Brother Klaus "Joe" Kueck
The last 25 years saw our membership increase to heights we haven't seen since the 50's topping out at 122 members. In the history book [located on the Past Master's Page here, rather than the 175th event book], there is a list of the officers that served as Worshipful Master. Some of these brothers also distinguished themselves as Grand Lodge officers. Worshipful Brother Wayne Gilmore was the D.D.G.M. in 1999, I was in 2009, Patrick Nichols in 2019, and Bro. Reinschmidt is currently Grand Master of the State of Louisiana for 2019. We are very proud of him as only the second Grand Master we have produced, the other being Charles F. Buck who served that office from 1887 to 1892.
In 1999, Worshipful Brother Eddie Bopp, a member of the Deutsches Haus, had a vision that we should celebrate our German Heritage and suggested that we have a Germanfest soon after the Deutsches Haus raps up Oktoberfest. At first, one of the um-pa-pa bands from the Haus, Prost, entertained us, but for the last five years, our very own brother Vince Vance, along with his Valients have been providing the entertainment. It has been a tremendous success.
2005 was the darkest year since the depression, the time when we nearly lost our building. It wasn't the winds that caused the major damage, even though it did blow down the two evergreen trees that were used for countless ceremonial funerals over the years. It also blew off some of the tiles of the parquet roof. This was minor damage compared to the three plus feet of water that inundated our building. Our custodian and friend, Ken Cox, rode out the storm in the building and after a week literally waded in chest deep water before he was able to evacuate. I was the first person that was able to enter the building after two weeks of sweltering heat and no electricity. I was devastated at what I saw and had doubts that we would survive...but we perservered! All of the downstairs furniture was ruined, the refrigeration, ac's...everything and... We had never carried flood insurance in our history.
A new chapter began when we got temporary power and a FEMA trailer for our custodian. Many brothers spent countless hours there tearing out the old and installing the new. Load after load of our history was hauled to the dump like so many others in our devastated city. But finally it started to take shape! We cashed in all of our CD's, used what was in savings, got a few donations, and rolled up our sleeves. Downstairs was rewired, new sheetrock installed, new AC and refrigeration equipment, lighting and electrical panels. Meetings were even held at Square and Compass for a while. Finally, it started taking shape and we returned to our beloved building on Bienville permanently.
Satisfied with the results downstairs and having a little money left due to all of the volunteers and donations, attention shifted to upstairs which was also completely refurbished from furniture to carpet. The only thing left original is our statue of King Solomon and the chairs in the officers stations. The theatre chairs, which originally came from the Cortez Theatre, were refurbished and upholstered.
Many brothers and family members worked on it and if I tried to list everyone I know I'd leave someone out but this cannot be written without mentioning W. Andy Mims, P.M., W. Melvin Mims, P.M., and our custodian Ken Cox. Andy and Melvin did most of the work in the kitchen, the library, sheetrock, cabinents, and on & on. I did most of the electrical and lighting. Ken Cox kept things clean while we were working, he pressure washed, picked up, and did a lot of the molding and finish carpentry work.
More on Ken: Ken became the "Mother Hen" of Germania. Although not a Mason, we were his family! He grew up with W. Bro. Ray Steele and Bro. Steele recommended him to us as our custodian. It was a perfect match. He looked over our place like it was his home, fussing at people for not cleaning up and not taking care of the grounds to his standards.
Following is also a list of every brother we've lost over the last 25 years. I have to mention a few that were special to me and to Germania. First, my dad, Klaus Kueck. He is the reason I am here. He and his best friend Eldred Gilmore both became 50 year members and were both honored with the rare title of Honorary Past Master because of the dedication they had for the Lodge. Worshipful Brother Warren Hawthorne served every position in the Lodge from a very young man until his death. He was a mentor to young Masons and a beacon light to all. Brother Eddie Bopp, ex state legislator, recognized our German heritage and was the creator of Germanfest. Worshipful Brother George Brown, my mentor, served as secretary for many years, and was the type of man and Mason we all aspire to be. Worshipful Brother Andy Mims, with his enthusiasm and craftmanship we were able to get back into our beloved building after Hurricane Katrina. Brother Andrew Kessler, lived to be 100 and was a Deutsches Haus member. Wosrhipful Brother Dan Mehn was a very rare individual, Boy Scout leader, Demolay leader, ritualist, and a Master wood worker. One of the last pieces of furniture he made, a Queen Ann chair, sits in our hall. Everybody on this list deserves mention but time doesn't permit. Worshipful Brother Ian Cairns wrote a poem about Brother Dan when he passed, but I'd like to dedicate it to ALL of our brothers that passed in the last 25 years.
IN MEMORY OF BROTHER DAN MEHN
The search for light can be obscured
By life and how we live it
But some we met, it shone within
A beacon brightly lit
Our Brother Dan, he had that light
And sharing was his boon
He showed the way it should be done
Oh Dan, you went too soon.
How could we learn all you had
to teach, you tried to show
Time is short, life is brief
Live well before you go.
WRITTEN BY IAN CAIRNS, P.M. GERMANIA #46 - 2007
Here is a list of others we have lost in the last 25 years and a few recollections:
Germania is also proud that we seem to be a magnet for some of our local musicians. In the old days (1800s), music was a part of the total Masonic experience. I've seen some of the old German song books that were used. We've tried currently to incorporate music to our degrees. I'm proud to say that the following brothers/musicians have joined our lodge in the last 25 years. Jerry Embree, Harry Ravine (Benny Grunch), Bobby Barth (Blackfoot), Joe Ashlar, Elmo Barnes, Bear Rawlins, and Vince Vance.
We also have a rich history with the people who have become our custodias in the last 25 years. Bro. Tommy Mixon lived in the apartment as did Brother Clayton Money. Both young brothers at one time or another experienced "something" unexplainable while alone in our building from someone touching them to things falling without explanation. We do know there always was and still are some very strong personalities that have graced our organization and maybe they do like to be heard from occassionally! Currently W.Bro. Patrick Nichols is living there and keeping things flowing smoothly.
I was a participant in the 150 year anniversary and I'll be 96 years old if I make it to the 200 year anniversary so... we'll see what happens. Thanks for supporting us and it would be really great to see you in 2044 to celebrate 200 years of Germania Lodge.