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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Was There No Help?

There is nothing good in this story.

There is nothing but sorrow and loss, and the tragedy of a man who felt so alone—in his church, his union, and apparently even in his fraternity—that he truly believed the most unspeakable act was the only answer to his family's problems. And that his wife seemed to agree.

His letter is here.



The media has been asking questions about the Masonic aspect of the story, in particular if Ervin Lupoe was a member of a California lodge. This notice has been circulated by the Grand Lodge of California F&AM:

"[Ervin Lupoe] was not a member of a Masonic lodge belonging to our Grand Lodge or of any lodge that we are aware of. . . Many Masonic rituals, and some that purport to be Masonic, are widely available in print and on the Internet. These are not the ritual of the Grand Lodge of Masons of California nor, to the best of our knowledge, the ritual of any Grand Lodge in this country today. Phrases found in these publications have been used in ceremonies of non-Masonic organizations for centuries."

The Grand Master of California, Larry L. Adamson, is asking that media and public inquiries be directed to Terry Mendez, Director of Communications, at tmendez @ freemason.org.


  1. Bro. Chris,

    I've been flogging the horse for a long time, but I've had it driven home again and again in the past week. We don't know what's going on with our missing brothers, and often don't even know who they are.

    All of us experience the phenomenon that there are sometimes ten times as many names on the books than there are brothers attendent at meetings. We all seem to believe there is little or nothing that can be done about this. "We've tried, and it doesn't work."

    I am the secretary for my lodge for the coming year. During the past week, I've had five brothers call me at home and ask where WE'VE been in their lives. One had been mugged, and in a car wreck, both of which events had been in the paper, and no one from the lodge offered any support or concern.

    There are reasons people disappear from our meetings. Some of which are just them, some of which are personality clashes, and some of which are disability. Unable to get out, unable to get out of a depression. Unable to drive. Unwilling to ask for help.

    What is the nature and responsibility of brotherhood? What is brotherly love, and how should it be manifest?

    Could we have made a difference in this terrible case? I don't know.

  2. Has his Masonic connection been verified?

  3. "One had been mugged, and in a car wreck, both of which events had been in the paper, and no one from the lodge offered any support or concern."

    But did the lodge know about it? Stories in the paper can often get buried where nobody sees them. Did any family member think to let the lodge know?

    I was secretary of my mother lodge for nearly eight years, all told, and I can tell you that plenty of our members never even bothered to let the lodge know when they were hospitalized or when other bad things happened in their lives.

    Hell, a lot of times we wouldn't even have known they'd died if it hadn't been for seeing an obituary in the newspaper. And we got back at least one or two dues cards from out of state every year with a note from the family telling us the brother had died months earlier. (Even when we were sending out trestle-boards on a monthly basis, we rarely got one back marked "deceased" -- it was always the dues card mailing that brought them out of the woodwork.)

    My mother often complains that I never call her. My response is that I'm sorry she feels that way, but at the same time, the phone does work both ways.

    Seems like that's a lesson a lot of our brethren could stand to learn.

  4. The obvious question is, did he ask for help?

    As a landlord for six years, literally hundreds of people passed through my office. I heard every kind of sad tale of woe, and many of them really were true. I helped when I could—it's one of the reasons I failed as a landlord. But I also saw incredible stories of kindness and assistance from others.

    I have no way of knowing whether Ervin Lupoe was truly a Mason or not, apart from his obvious message. But a father and a mother raising five children under the age of 8 had other alternatives than what he chose. I hope they sought help from their church, their union and their fraternity. If they did ask, and received none, shame on their whole community. If they didn't ask and kept their troubles to themselves, choosing the horrible outcome they did, it is a terrible story that didn't have to end that way.

    In an earlier time, we knew our neighbors and their kids. We knew if Charlie lost his job, or Sarah was in hospital, or Frank's mom passed away. Today, we're lucky if we know our neighbors' first names, and in most cases if the guy next door dropped dead in his house, it wouldn't be a neighbor who noticed he hadn't been seen for a week.

    My brother in law called over the weekend. He lives in literally the middle of nowhere, with the closest neighbor miles away, and the mailbox far enough that you have to drive to get to it. He was present at the same Masonic funeral for his dad that spurred me to become a Mason, but it has taken ten years longer for him to ask the question. Yet, he has asked. because he needs human contact, he wants more than just sitting in isolation and communicating with a keyboard. He wants to know the neighbors around him and the people in the town close by. And Freemasonry is one way for that.

    But as Nathan pointed out, it's a two-way street. Just joining a lodge or a church or a union and carrying a card is not all it takes. These groups are communities within themselves, writ small. For them to work, we have to participate. We have to come to meetings, get to know brethren and their families, and make friendships. A man who joins a lodge and never shows up again is like the neighbor who moves in, puts up a privacy fence and a "No Trespassing" sign, and shouts for the kids to stay off his lawn.

    I don't know the first thing about Ervin Lupoe. I only know the last thing. I have no intention of flogging the victim. But the story of this family is a tragic lesson to us all to get our noses out of the computer screen and connect with people again—communication in both directions.

    Don't be too proud to ask for a brother's help.

    And don't be too deaf to hear his quiet plea.

  5. There are people who aren't constitutionally able to ask for help, and it's hard to give it to them. I ended my comment with a question, because I don't know if it would have been possible. Do we know our brothers? Do we know those who are missing?

    In one case that I cited, the brother was hit in a car accident by another brother from the lodge. Though the original brother was injured, nothing was said. In a larger way, yes, phones ring both ways, but what another does isn't our responsibility.

    What we do is.

  6. "A man who joins a lodge and never shows up again is like the neighbor who moves in, puts up a privacy fence and a "No Trespassing" sign, and shouts for the kids to stay off his lawn."

    But what about the man who has been a Mason for 60 years, and is too old or too depressed or too ill to get out? A 60 year Mason may have been in this condition for a long time. If no one noticed that he was missing, and everyone just figured, oh well, he pays his dues, and the phone works in both directions, after all.

  7. Hodapp said: "But the story of this family is a tragic lesson to us all to get our noses out of the computer screen and connect with people again—communication in both directions."

    Good point. I am now going to call my Mama just to check on her. After that, I will call an ill Lodge Brother.

  8. Yeah if you have problems and don't tell anyone, how can they help? Although this guy turned out not to be a Mason sometimes pride can get in the way from asking for help when its really needed. Once I went three weeks without food, but was too proud to ask for help. A friend could see what was happened and forced his extra groceries on me.

    Certainly my lodge could've helped sooner, but I was a new Mason and scared to speak up and ask for help, even though I was an officer at my lodge.

    Its embarrassing to admit that you're working 60 hours a week, but because the contracting company is having issues, you're not being paid.

    At the same time there really isn't much help available for undivorced families.

    A better solution would've been for them to get a divorce so his wife could get on welfare.

    But this stuff happens all the time in Los Angeles.

    Its very hard to live down here even if you're in a church, generally there is no aid available. Often the pastor may be just as poor as his flock here.


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