By W:. Ronald J. Seifried, DSA

Jephtha Lodge receives phone calls and emails from a wide variety of people. Interested petitioners and telemarketers are just the tip of the iceberg on the daily correspondence our teams receive daily. On one such recent occasion, both the lodge and the caller could not predict what the result would have been better.

Léon E. Berthaume 1908 Masonic certificate

Last March, a local resident contacted Jephtha Lodge to see if we would be interested in accepting a Masonic-related donation. The long-time Huntingtonian donated his grandfather’s well-preserved 1908 Masonic certificate. Traveling certificates, or passports, were commonly folded and placed into leather wallets and was a form of Masonic ID for traveling Brothers visiting other lodges.  

Brother Léon E. Berthaume was a Mason for only 22 months before demitting on November 12, 1908, according to the archives in the Grand Lodge of New York. Raised a Catholic, it is possible that Brother Berthaume demitted from Freemasonry due to the Church’s long-standing ban on its members from joining the fraternity. Given the name Emile Léon Berthaume at birth in France in 1880, it was customary to call people by their middle names. He immigrated with his parents to the United States at the age of nine in 1889. Because he had no French accent when he spoke English, he soon became Leo Edward Berthaume. His Master Mason’s certificate has his name listed as Léon Berthaume.

He managed to finish high school and The Cooper Union all at night since he had to work during the day to support himself, and most probably his parents as well. Eventually his parents divorced, and his father lived with him until his death. “I often think of my grandmother, who worked from home as a Swiss trained artist for Tiffany, Ames & Rollinson, managing the lives of her husband, two children, mother, father-in-law and her household,” the donor says. “How extraordinary that seems in today’s world, but quite the norm then.”

Léon E. Berthaume and his wife Elvire

Brother Berthaume was a New York City Civil Engineer for 40 years before retiring in 1950. Married to Elvire, the couple had two children, Leo and Evelyn and two grandsons. For several years in the 1930’s and 1940’s, Brother Berthaume and his wife were summer residents of Huntington.

In speaking with this generous donor, his curiosity about his grandfather led to our conversation about Masonry and what we do. Although this gentleman respected and loved his grandfather, his memory of him is limited due to Brother Berthaume passing away in 1955 when the donor was only eleven years old. Our conversation led to the principles of our fraternity and how one joins Masonry. He was surprised that he can join the Masons and that he had the necessary requirements to enter the brotherhood. What was once a simple donation of an old artifact to a local lodge, this gentleman became more interested in Freemasonry, Jephtha Lodge and the organization.

Today, that gentleman is Brother Richard Gentile, one of several Entered Apprentices who have joined Jephtha Lodge in 2019.  

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