As he took a moment to scan the group of people who gathered for a Sunday picnic in Central Park, Rick LeShure’s face wore a subtle smile, reflecting a mix of satisfaction and gratitude.
LeShure worked for the better part of two months planning the picnic, assisted by his “brothers” Bob Crawford and Jerry Kline of Centre Masonic Lodge No. 147 in Marion. There were things to celebrate, relationships to build, and he wanted to get it right.
Sunday’s picnic was an important step, LeShure said, in re-energizing the Masonic lodge to be an active contributor to the community.
Lodge members stood in line for hamburgers and hot dogs with Marion PRIDE committee members invited to kick off a new collaboration between the organizations.
The Grand Lodge of Kansas has adopted PRIDE statewide, and Centre Lodge has money and manpower to help. PRIDE chair Pam Byer learned about the initiative at a meeting in Melvern.
“I came home thinking there’s a whole list of things we can do now, bigger projects, things the city doesn’t have time to do,” Byer said.
However, she didn’t know who to contact.
“The first Masons I contacted were Florence and they said, ‘We’re Florence, there’s a Marion chapter,’” she said. “I just didn’t know who the members were.”
That’s something Worshipful Master LeShure, the lodge’s chief officer, is determined to change.
“Our lodge is small and we’ve struggled with membership,” he said. “We wanted to do a public event to help grow our membership. There are a lot of new programs coming out. It’s a good time to be a Mason.”
1910 kicked off about three decades that were good times to be a Freemason in Marion. The lodge built an immense red brick building at Main and 4th Sts., now home to CiboTech Labs. It served as a venue for community events as well, until they rented out the first floor for a grocery store — first Kroger, then Quality Market.
As membership dwindled, the building was sold and meetings were moved to smaller quarters. While the lodge remained active, it became less visible as other civic organizations prospered.
These days, people often are surprised to learn Marion has a Masonic lodge.
At first glance, the youthful LeShure, 31, might appear to be an unlikely choice to lead the lodge back to prominence; however, he’s part of an age group that has showed increased interest in Freemasonry.
“These young men, especially college age and those just coming out of high school, this history really intrigues them,” state Grand Junior Deacon Craig Olson said. “It seems like the young guys are really interested in what we have.”
As district deputy grand master, LeShure facilitates communication between the state organization and lodges in Florence, Cottonwood Falls, Americus, and Emporia.
Centre Lodge has about 30 members; however, participation in monthly meetings is low, LeShure said. Service projects, such as working with PRIDE to repaint planters on Main St. and clean up Luta Creek, are ways to increase engagement and visibility.
The picnic also offered a chance to hand out some overlooked service awards for longtime members.
Charles May joined the Marion lodge in 1960, but transferred with the highway department to Salina in 1963.
He maintained his Masonic membership at Marion, and was present Sunday to receive a 50-year pin and certificate.
“I’m very appreciative of it,” May said. “My dad was a very active Mason in a small town in western Kansas. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to be more active.”
LeShure said arrangements have been made to recognize Randolph Robinson, Ronald Widler, Wayne Hinz, and William Weber for their length of service.
Masonic membership still has relevance, May said.
“I think it has just as much now, if not more, as when I joined,” he said. “What it’s lacking, and I’m just as guilty as any of them, is talking to people about it.”
That’s not a shortcoming LeShure shares.
“I’ve been a Mason for five years; I love to help people, I love to serve, I love to share knowledge and teach,” he said. “I’ve made my share of mistakes, like everybody, but that’s why I joined. It’s good men made better. It’s a wonderful fraternity of good men who all work together to do good things for our communities.”