A Master’s Ramblings

My grandfather was a Freemason for most of his adult life. He was very active in Racine Lodge, in the city where he lived his entire life. He and my grandmother were in Eastern Star. My father remembers many Masonic events growing up, mostly dinners and picnics. He was encouraged by my grandfather to join DeMolay, but he found that, at least in Racine at that time, he didn’t fit in with that group. He joined the Boy Scouts instead.

Growing up, I had very little awareness of my grandfather’s involvement in Freemasonry. I lived in Worthington, Ohio, and the Grand Lodge building was right next to the church I went to. There was another Lodge building next to the allergist’s office where I got shots once a week for years. This is what you call a secret society hiding in plain sight. My parents knew these buildings were there and what they were, but they were not involved in Masonry, so explaining it to me was likely not a priority. Or maybe they did explain it to me, but I wasn’t paying attention.

I didn’t become a Mason until after my grandfather had died. I’m not sure how I became interested in the Fraternity, but when I was 22 or so, I was on a long airplane flight, probably to San Diego, and I sat next to a Brother who was studying for a Scottish Rite play. Of course, I didn’t know that at first, but I noticed his Masonic ring and asked about it. He didn’t need much prompting to start and then continue to talk about Masonry for the next three hours. I expressed my interest in Masonry to him, and he contacted the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin, or so I presume, and within a week, I was contacted by Commonwealth Lodge.

If you ask me why I became a Mason, or maybe more importantly why I’m still a Mason, I don’t have a great answer. I’ve seen plenty of candidates that made it through the first degree and stopped. I’ve seen others that were officers in their Lodges who stopped being Masons, including my brother. At Grand Lodge and District meetings, we are told that this is a problem and we need to reach out to these Brothers and bring them back into the fold.

While I respect that view, sometimes we are better off if that Entered Apprentice who doesn’t have the time or continued interest in meeting with the members of a Lodge doesn’t show up for the next degree. Likewise, it’s sad that Brothers who have made great contributions to their Lodges stop participating, but life gets in the way of many things. Better a brother to remove himself from Lodge than cause discord among the Brethren. If people have other priorities in their lives, who am I to say Masonry should be more important to them than it is?

Here is my answer: I joined Freemasonry because I was at a point in my life where I was looking for something more interesting to do than going home every night and watching TV for 6 hours. I continue to be a Freemason because talking to Brothers in Benjamin Franklin Lodge (through a haze of cigar smoke) about Masonic esoterica and the trials and triumphs of this life — continues to be compelling. There is no Lodge, only men on the Level that are driven to continue to associate through ritual and fellowship — friends whom I found to be Brothers.

Sincerely and Fraternally,
Erik Nielsen
Worshipful Master
Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83

Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83 Donates Toys for Hospital Children, Funds for Homeless Center

WM Erik Nielsen and Almoner Merrell Tomlin stand behind gifts and toys to be donated to the Children's Hospital in Madison.

WM Erik Nielsen and Almoner Merrell Tomlin stand behind gifts and toys to be donated to the Children’s Hospital in Madison.


The Brethren of Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83, Madison, recently donated toys and funds for children who are at the Children’s Hospital in Madison. The Brethren purchased the toys on their own, or provided funds for general toy uses, and gathered them at a recent stated communication. The project was organized by the Lodge Almoner, Brother Merrell Tomlin. Brother Tomlin and WM Erik Nielsen are shown in the photo admiring some of the toys.

By Paul Gordon at 2 Dec 2013 – 3:53pm

BFL#83 Member Daniel Slavik Becomes Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin!

From Left: Glen Witt, Greg Ellis, Dan Slavik, Erik Nielsen, Adam Witt

From Left: Glen Witt, Greg Ellis, Dan Slavik, Erik Nielsen, Adam Witt

Brother Daniel Slavik, a founding member of Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83, became the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin at the 169th Annual Communication in Madison on June 7-8, 2013. Grand Master Slavik has worked long and hard in the quarries of life and Freemasonry, traveling thousands of miles and spending countless hours as a Grand Lodge Officer to carry forward the goals and activities of the Craft. Among his various duties and activities he has frequently served as Installing Master at Officer Installations for BFL#83 and other Lodges. He has been instrumental in arranging meetings and visitations between Prince Hall Freemasons and BFL#83 and other Lodges.

By Paul Gordon

Benjamin Franklin Lodge No. 83 Presents Live Webcast of Sikhism Program at Brothers and Guests Evening

The Brethren of Benjamin Franklin Lodge No. 83, Madison, and guests enjoyed a timely and important program at their November Brothers and Guests evening titled Sikhism: Universal Religion. The program was presented by area Sikh leaders Dr. Satwant Dhillon, an Obstetrician, and Mr. Randee Talwar, a professional hotelier. They were very appreciative of the opportunity to make this outreach in view of the recent tragedy at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Their program was arranged for the Lodge by Brother Shravan Sukumar, who was Initiated, Passed and Raised in Trinity Lodge No. 17, Tritchy, India in the Emulation Rite of Freemasonry. Brother Sukumar is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Biochemistry and he is a frequent attendee at Benjamin Franklin Lodge No 83, which works in the Emulation Rite.

By Paul Gordon

Father and Son Master Masons Present Benjamin Franklin Program by PM Paul Gordon

Bro. Glen Witt and Bro. Adam Witt demonstrate Benjamin Franklin's lightning bells experiment.

Bro. Glen Witt and Bro. Adam Witt demonstrate Benjamin Franklin’s lightning bells experiment.

Brother Glen Witt and his son, Brother Adam Witt, who are both Master Masons, presented a very well received program at a recent Brothers and Guests night meeting at BFL#83. The topic of the presentation was “Electrical Experiments of Benjamin Franklin”. Brother Glen has long been interested in electrical experiments, and demonstrated some of Franklin’s innovations with some of his electrical equipment. He and Brother Adam also have a small library of books about Benjamin Franklin. Brother Adam gave a power point presentation about Franklin’s general background and his specific interest in electricity. Franklin was largely self–educated and received only Honorary degrees.

By Robert Blackburn

BFL#83 Attends Combined Table Lodge for 2012 by PM Paul Gordon

Four members of Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83 attended the Ninth Annual Combined Table Lodge on March 29th. The Joint Hosts were the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Inc., Free & Accepted Masons of Wisconsin, and Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Free & Accepted Masons of Wisconsin. The Table Lodge was held at the Prince Hall Masonic Center in Milwaukee. This has become one of the premier yearly events in Wisconsin Masonry and there was a sold out full house in attendance. Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Brother Minor King, Right Worshipful Senior Grand Warden of Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

By Robert Blackburn

Bro. Baux Raised to Master Mason

Benjamin Franklin Lodge No. 83 is happy to announce that Brother David Baux was raised to the degree of Master Mason on April 11, 2012. Pictured from left to right are WM Mitch Custer (PM) from Doric Lodge #356, Bro. David Baux, and WM Travis James West.