You may have seen postings on the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation’s (MMCF) website about the Legacy Series. I want to take a few minutes to describe it and explain the involvement of the Michigan Masonic Museum and Library in this worthy endeavor.
There are two elements to the Legacy Series. The first part was originally conceived as an Oral History project recording interviews with Masons throughout the state who have stories to tell. The concern was not necessarily with their Masonic accomplishments per se, but the fact that they had an interesting life story to tell and often a deeply personal Masonic story that interwove with their life story. A second line of effort was added to include all of the living Past Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. In this case, the roles are reversed, we have men who were distinguished particularly because of their Masonic story and the interest was in preserving their memory as well as growing our understanding of their life inside and outside of the Craft.
Much of the credit for conceiving both projects is due to Bro. Girbe Eefsting, a Mason from Western Michigan who hails Middleville #231 as his mother lodge and is affiliated with Doric #342 in Grand Rapids. Bro. Girbe is a filmmaker and director of the Grand Rapids Film Farm, located in the Grand Rapids Masonic Temple. I’m glossing over many steps, but will summarize things by saying Girbe had the vision to produce a few of these Masonic Oral History videos on his own and went on to pursue support from the MMCF to develop both series. The Development staff of the Foundation has found some aspects of the project to be a tremendously useful tool in their ongoing donor cultivation efforts.
Both efforts (the general Legacy Series and PGM Legacy Series) are being conducted simaltaneously with the generous support of the MMCF.
The Michigan Masonic Museum and Library has been very involved with the PGM series owing to its specific value as a historical record of the Past Grand Masters. We’ve been organizing the shoot schedule with Past Grand Masters, developing background information, conducting pre-interviews, assisting with content development, post-shoot research, and providing any other support possible. To date, four PGMs have been interviewed: Polzin, Praria, Wheeler, and Moulthrop. Most of the issues with scheduling future interviews regards issues of weather, distance, and ill-health.
Two of the PGM interviews have been conducted by PGM Walter Wheeler, the Executive Director of the MMCF, and two have been conducted by John Wallsteadt, the Director of the Michigan Masonic Musuem and Library.
I’ve been lucky to be involved with all four PGM interviews so far and I can’t stress enough how fascinating and historically significant this process is. We have printed words and still photos of our deceased PGMs and these two things are all we have to truly know the PGMs of the past. We can imagine a great deal about what they were like, but at the end of the day, we are simply left with few things we have. This project will allow us to preserve their personality and presence in perpetuity and create a lasting record that is unparalleled in the length of our Grand Lodge history.
The Legacy Series has produced a number of fascinating stories from Masons around the State. Please a take a few minutes to sample some of the stories:
-Michigan State Senator Harry DeMaso of Battle Creek.
-Charlie Collins of Middleville Lodge #231
-Harold Becker of Rockford Michigan, one of the last living sons of a Union Civil War Veteran.
-Bette and Sherman Willson (102 year old member of the Craft).
-Bill and Betty Schmidt of Saugatuck, MI.
PGM Legacy Series:
-John Polzin of Kalamazoo, Michigan (Grand Master ’75 to ’76)
More videos are on the way!