The Masons of Marietta have an appreciation for age.
They are in their 98th year and just recently met to recognize one of their fellows with a 50-year gold pin for his membership.
The pinning of Cecil McCraw took place in the historical Floyds' Hill Cemetery. During the ceremony, McCraw heard these words read to him:
"A Mason has family, youth, manhood and age. Youth attains knowledge and manhood applies that knowledge in duty to God, neighbors and ourselves. It is only in age that we enjoy the happy reflections consequent upon a life well spent."
And so, McCraw was complimented by the Masons for his 50 years of membership and his service as a master Mason.
The ceremony was dignified, yet informal and relaxed. Several times McCraw was referred to as "beloved" by his fellow Masons.
McCraw had chosen the Floyds' Hill Cemetery for his honor because of his longtime concern that the cemetery is well-maintained.
"There's an African-American cemetery behind and overgrown," he said. "I've been concerned for 40 years since 1970, thinking that the money that keeps the white cemetery upkeep might do the same for the other."
The 50-year pin in Masonry is not all that uncommon.
Marietta Masons had recently lost a member with 60 years membership in Charlie Hampton, whose father, A. W. Hampton, also had 65 years in the organization and had been one of the original signers of the warrant establishing the lodge.
The Marietta Masonic Lodge was organized in 1921 and is part of Masonic District 5, which includes nine Masonic Lodges in Cass and Marion counties. Some of these are Atlanta, Douglassville, Linden, Bloomburg, Jefferson, Avinger, Kildare.
Member James Cornet, who presented McCraw with his award, was asked his description of Masonry and meaning of membership.
"A Masonic Lodge is a place where good, honest men can meet in fellowship with each other," he began.
"In order to be a Mason, you believe in God and life after death and be of good report.
"Then, when Masons are involved in charitable work, others can see and know the effort is for a good cause and place, such as the Scottish Rite and Shriners Hospital, which Masons support.
"We don't put anyone in the lodge above any other nor any lodge member above any person in the community. Masons bring good men into the lodge and make them better as individuals. That's not being better than your neighbor, but a better man inside yourself."
At the conclusion of the celebration, McCraw had the last laugh—almost. When everyone was silent for a moment, he spoke up.
"The great thing about reaching 50 membership years? You don't have to pay any dues anymore," he said, and everyone began chuckling.
But then someone of the group said, "Unless you want to."