Chartered By: Albert T. Ames
Charter Date: 11/17/1988 1988-112
Precedence Date: 07/09/1870
- Manual Cruz, Jr., 1988
- James R. Peles, 1989
- Joseph N. Rinaldi, 1990
- Paul D. Bryant, 1991
- Chester E. Butler, 1992
- William J. Bessette, 1993-1994
- Joseph N. Rinaldi, 1995
- Eleftherios Kacoyannakis, 1996
- Gary B. Muddiman, 1997
- Robert A. Theroux, 1998
- William J. Bessette, 1999
- Roger L. Dugas, 2000
- Jeffrey H. O'Niel, 2001
- Matthew E. Guilbert, 2002
- Robert F. Tremblay, 2003
- Michael R. Cote, 2004
- Ralph G. W. Lamy, 2005-2006
- Dennis P. Cote, 2007-2008
- Thomas C. Baum, Jr., 2009
- Robert F. Tremblay, 2010
REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
- 1995 (125th Anniversary, held in Springfield)
VISITS BY GRAND MASTER
- 1988 (Ames; consolidation of Elm and Belcher Lodges, 11/17; Special Communication)
- 1992 (Darling; Installation of Officers, 10/17)
- 1993 (Lovering; reception for Junior Grand Warden David A. Davies, 04/24;)
- 1995 (Lovering; 125th Anniversary, held in Springfield; Special Communication)
- 1995 (125th Anniversary History, 1995-156; see below)
125TH ANNIVERSARY HISTORY, SEPTEMBER 1995
From Proceedings, Page 1995-156:
As we contemplate the works of our Great Creator a period of 125 years is but a brief span of time. During this time, many people from both Belcher and Elm Lodges planned and toiled to bring us to the present 125th anniversary.
By the merger of both Lodges, many years of history filled with the legacy of those who have preceded has been brought together. From the beginning of Belcher Lodge in 1870 and Elm Lodge in 1924 many people have left their mark and numerous events have occurred which are now history.
The beginning of Belcher Lodge was largely due to the efforts of Benjamin and John Belcher. In honor of Wor. Benjamin Belcher, the first Master, the Lodge was named Belcher Lodge.
The forefathers of Elm Lodge, made up of eleven Master Masons, included Wor. Harrison E. Dunbar who became the first Master of Elm Lodge, a lodge located on Elm St., West Springfield.
Most of the early history of both Lodges has been recorded in previous presentations, for Belcher Lodge in the Booklet for the 100th anniversary (1970), and for Elm Lodge in the booklet for the 50th anniversary (1974).
This historical presentation picks up from the past anniversaries with an objective to bring the combined history current to this 125th anniversary.
Ten years prior to the merger, Elm Lodge went through some very hard decisions. One of the most difficult, brought about by a rent increase with the Harvey Building Association, was to move out of the Old White Church in West Springfield, which had been its home for 54 years.
Spearheading the search for new quarters, Wor. Armand Daviau, Master, was able to arrange with the Town Manager of Agawam to rent the vacant old library building at 733 Main St. in Agawam. It was found that this building was built in 1924, which relates to the year Elm Lodge was started, and also was found to be directly across the street from "Elm Street". It was as though it was meant to be. Lodge meetings were started in this location in 1979 with Wor. Stanley Svec as Master.
The location of Elm Lodge was well received by the members of the Agawam Trestle Board Club, whose members had a strong desire for a Masonic lodge in Agawam.
At this time in March, 1979, it was necessary to establish a building committee, which became the Ralph L. Cheeseman Masonic Building Association, Inc. The adopted name was in recognition of Wor. Ralph L. Cheeseman, Past Master and holder of the Joseph Warren Medal, who served as Master in 1937, and was Chaplain Emeritus after 30 years of service. A beautiful portrait of Wor. Ralph L. Cheeseman now graces the entry way into our present lodge home. By-Laws were prepared and a building committee was established with Wor. Armand E. Daviau, President, Wor. Samuel J. Howley, Treasurer and Bro. Kenneth Lenz, Secretary.
During the time we were at this location, one of the major events that was held was a Commemoration Dedication held on July 31,1983, featuring a Flag and Pole Presentation. This ceremony gave recognition to the 250th anniversary of Masonry in Massachusetts. The honored guest for this event was the Grand Master, Most Worshipful J. Philip Berquist.
As time passed (six years and 7 Masters, 1979 through 1985), after countless man hours and monies were expended, notice was received from the Town of Agawam that due to legal reasons, we would have to move out. At this point a search committee was organized.
A search was conducted, which through the efforts of Bro. Peter Meltzer, resulted in the purchase of the present building on July 21,1986, brought about by a vote of Elm Lodge which made funds available to the Ralph L. Cheeseman Masonic Building Association, Inc. to purchase the building we are now in, formerly known as the Tinti's Restaurant.
Much renovation was necessary, along with a difficult financial situation left by the previous owner, all of which were resolved with the help of Bro. Peter Meltzer, Wor. Kenneth Lenz, Attorney, Wor. Armand Daviau, Rt. Wor. Raymond Williamson, Bro. Ross Marble, Wor. Anthony Scalise, and many others. Attention is directed to all the donated professional assistance received from Architect David Carlson, Structural Engineer Raymond Kalita, and Consultant George Mallis.
After several months of renovations by the help of many members, Lodge meetings were held at this location in February, 1987.
Through the efforts of Wor. Anthony F. Scalise and Bro. Philip Canasta, the many government requirements necessary to operate a building, which has rental units as well as the home of a Masonic Lodge, were met. Since 1970 to the time of the merger, Rt. Wor. Donald Lohnes, Wor. Ronald Lohnes, and Wor. Leslie Lohnes were very involved with the Belcher Lodge activities. In the mid-80's several factors developed that forced a very hard decision to seek a merger with another lodge in the 33rd Masonic District. After much discussion and review, a decision was reached to merge with Elm Lodge. The merger ceremony was conducted on November 17, 1988, by the Grand Master, Most Worshipful Albert T. Ames and his Grand Lodge officers, which brought all the history of Belcher and Elm Lodges together as the history of Elm-Belcher Lodge. At the time of the merger, Wor. Robert H. Merkel was the Master of Belcher Lodge, and Wor. Arthur E. Hastings was Master of Elm Lodge. During the merger process several agreements were made which resulted in the following:
- The name of the Lodge was to be Elm-Belcher Lodge;
- The elected and appointed officers for Elm-Belcher Lodge starting with Sept. 1, 1989, to be the Elm Lodge, elected and appointed officers with the exception of the Chaplain. For this position, Wor. Wallace S. Phinney of Belcher Lodge was appointed. Belcher Lodge charter, which dates back to 1870, being the oldest Lodge, was adopted, with Agawam as the location for Elm-Belcher Lodge;
- The By-Laws of Elm Lodge were to be the By-Laws of Elm- Belcher Lodge, with the addition of Article VI, the section which includes prior arrangements for Life Membership in Belcher Lodge. Revisions were made in Article VIII to cover changes in the Official Seal of Elm-Belcher Lodge. The format for the calendar was changed to show the merger date and the identification format previously used by both Lodges;
- Belcher Lodge records were turned over to Wor. Anthony F. Scalise, Secretary.
Following this merger, Wor. Manual Cruz, Jr. became the first Master of Elm-Belcher Lodge in 1988.
The merger also brought about the merger of the two building committees. The Chicopee Falls Masonic Home Association and the Ralph L. Cheeseman Masonic Building Association, Inc., now operate as the Ralph L. Cheeseman Masonic Building Association, Inc. Bro. Ross K. Marble was the first President of the merged building committee.
Since the merger, this committee has been faced with a fire in May 1992, and, later in early 1994, water damage from large amounts of snow on the flat roof over the dining area. Fortunately, there was limited damage to the Elm-Belcher Lodge room. The necessary preparation for the recovery of the expenses for repairs was expedited through the knowledge and efforts of Bro. Robert Conway. Much help was provided by members of the Building Committee with the restorations that were necessary.
During the past year, it was decided that rather than continue operating the building with a lingering debt becoming a larger burden over time, an agreement was reached with Elm-Belcher Lodge for internal financing made possible by a gift from Bro. Stanford Brown, a long-time member of Elm Lodge, that made possible a pay-off of the mortgage, thus reducing the financial load considerably. With this matter completed as well as the coming of the 125th Anniversary based on our charter, arrangements have been made for a double celebration which brings us to this gala event.
In addition to all men of distinction previously acknowledged from the beginning of both Belcher and Elm Lodges, since 1970, we must add the following:
- Rt. Wor. Donald J. Lohnes
- Rt. Wor. Raymond W. Williamson
- Rt. Wor. Guido Simone
- Rt. Wor. David A. Davies
As we look back through the years to our earliest beginnings, we can be justly proud of our accomplishments and take great pride where our Lodge now stands in relationship to the community and our fellow man. An outstanding example is our participation in the Red Cross blood program which has resulted in a Grand Lodge citation every year since 1961. This has happened through the efforts of Bro. Francis Van Mater, Bro. Henry Rubinwitch, and Wor. Joseph N. Rinaldi.
As we reflect on our past history, we become aware of our indebtedness to all our Brothers, past and present, for making it possible to reach this point in our history. We can only look to be assured that in the future our brothers will continue to carry on the tradition of our beloved Lodge in the years to come. So mote it be!
GRAND LODGE OFFICERS
- David A. Davies, Grand Sword Bearer 1990, 1992; Junior Grand Warden 1993
- Anthony J. Leroux, DDGM, District 29, 2018
- Roland I. Outhuse, DDGM, District 19 (Palmer), 1988, 1989