B y Derek Liebig
Members of Whitehall Elks Lodge No. 1491 paid tribute to their former members during an emotionally touching ceremony held at the lodge on Sunday afternoon.
Members were joined by friends, family, members of the youth Antlers group, Boy Scout Troop 83, Girl Scout Troop 3435, and local dignitaries in honoring nine members who have passed away during the past year.
Those in attendance began arriving at the lodge shortly after noon and local girl scouts and boy scouts escorted folks to their seats.
After everyone had taken their seats, Exalted Ruler Martin Rocque welcomed those in attendance and explained why they had all gathered together.
“We are here to pledge our fidelity to our former members,” said Rocque, who proceeded to read the names of the nine individuals they had come to honor: Janice Oliver, Philip Neddo, Joseph Golden, Hayden Reed, Terry Leroy, Wilbur Abbott, Francis E. Lavin, Charles Fountain and Francis W. Lavin. “Their remains shall endure forever.”
After a rendition of “Air for Brother James,” sung by the men’s choir and accompanied by keyboardist Peg Ashline, and the singing of “Amazing Grace” by Tammy Stevens and Thomas Abbot, former members were honored during a Lighting of the Candles ceremony.
A single Boy Scout and a single Girl Scout walked to the center of the room and lit a candle in honor of each of the former members.
As the candle was lit, the family of those members stood and watched; the emotion clearly visibly on their face.
Afterwards, the scouts presented each family with a memorial book and a bouquet of flowers.
Following the ritual lighting of the candles, Father Michael Flannery of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church took the lectern and delivered an oration.
He said he had the great joy to know some of those who were being recognized and the honor of laying some of them to rest.
He then discussed an incident at the barber shop in which a man with a full head of hair came in requesting it be shaved off.
Flannery, who could be described as hair challenged himself, said he turned to the barber and asked why anyone with such a beautiful head of hair would want it shaved to which the barber replied, “men with curly hair want straight hair, men with straight hair want curly hair, men with no hair want hair and men with lots of hair don’t want any hair.”
His point was that we are never satisfied with who we are, but the same can’t be said of family and friends, who we love and cherish unconditionally for who they are.
He went on to say the best gift we can give our deceased brothers and sisters is a life well lived.
Later in the ceremony Ladies auxiliary president Pat Manor recited “My First Christmas in Heaven,” and the tolling of the bell was struck 11 times to impress on everyone the significance of the 11th hour.
Following the ceremony attendees were invited to join members as they enjoy a buffet lunch of ziti, salad, cake and other refreshments.
Rocque said the purpose of the event, which is held annually on the first Sunday of December at every Elks Lodge in the country is to ensure that “living or dead, departed Elks are never forgotten,” and judging from Sunday’s ceremony, it was clear they are not nor will they be.