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Diamond Jubilee Award bestowed upon Turlock Mason Robert McConnell
robert mcconnell
Honoring Robert McConnell with his 75-year Jubilee in the Masonry Fraternity Organization seen here are Sean Metroka Grand Master of California Masons, Jairo Gomez Assistant Grand Lecturer Division IV, Robert Lavy Grand Bible Bearer and Walter McClung Master of Turlock Masonic Lodge #236. - photo by Photo Contributed

Robert McConnell received the Diamond Jubilee Award from the Masons, for his 75 years of membership in the fraternal organization.


The honor was presented at McConnell’s home in Newman by the Grand Master of the Masons in California, Sean Metroka. “On this happy and important occasion,” Metroka began, “as we meet to honor 75 years of devotion to the Masonic Fraternity, we may seriously reflect upon those years – fraught with kindly reminders of diligence in duty; liberal benevolence and diffuse charity, but above all, 75 years of constancy and fidelity to the ideals of our ancient and honorable Fraternity.”


At age 21 and one week, on March 19, 1948, McConnell was initiated as part of Hills Ferry Lodge #236, now known as the Turlock Lodge 236.  McConnell joined the organization following the footsteps of his father and brothers.


Freemasonry is, at its core, about true friendship, personal development, and community service. McConnell has indeed embodied these traits throughout his membership.


McConnell grew up in Newman; his father was principal of the P Street School. McConnell met his high school sweetheart Shirley Louise Awe in 1942. After graduating from Orestimba in 1944, McConnell went to College of the Pacific (UOP) where he studied Public Speaking and Radio Broadcasting.  In 1950, the high school sweethearts were married.  In 1952, McConnell took a teaching position in Wasco, California where he taught Speech Correction before serving 17 years as principal.  McConnell was a member of the Delano-Wasco Masonic Lodge #309 during his time there.  In 1989 McConnell retired and returned to Newman with his loving wife where they became greatly involved within the community.


The Turlock Masonic Lodge is one of the many organizations McConnell is a member.  He is also known within his community as highly active with Rotary and within his Presbyterian Church, among other organizations. McConnell is notably one of the founding members of TOSCA, a local nonprofit scholarship program for Orestimba High School graduates. Through these involvements, McConnell has lent his speech expertise with local youth during numerous speech contests.  He fondly recalls the various students he has coached and brags about those who ultimately turned those skills into scholarships and education opportunities.


McConnell has accomplished 75 years of membership within one of the world’s oldest fraternal organizations.


In the Middle Ages, the term “freemason” was awarded to highly skilled stonemasons hired as free agents to build castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. Because of the inherent danger of their work, stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members as well as the widows and orphans of those killed on the job. Lodge members met in temporary buildings, built next to the cathedrals, to receive their pay, plan their work, train new apprentices, and socialize. The first grand lodge was established in 1717 in London. In 1718 English Freemasonry spread to France and Spain, and after 1729, to India, Italy, Poland, Sweden, other parts of Europe, and eventually the American colonies. In 1733 the first American lodge was established in Boston under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England. Of the 39 men who signed the U.S. Constitution, 13 were Masons.


Freemasonry has been an integral part of California for more than 150 years. During the gold rush of 1849, thousands of settlers came to California in search of fortune. Those who were Masons brought their rich traditions with them, soon establishing some of California’s first Masonic lodges in the mining towns of the Gold Country. In 1850 — the same year that California became a state — the Grand Lodge of California was established in Sacramento. Within 10 years, the number of Masonic lodges had grown from 11 to 130, while membership soared from 258 to more than 5,000. Over the years, the Masons have played a key role in shaping the history of California. To date, 19 California governors have been Masons and at least four California Masons have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Today, the Grand Lodge of California has more than 60,000 members and about 340 lodges located throughout the state, making it one of the largest jurisdictions in the world, according to


The Masonic Lodge provides a place for camaraderie within the local community.  It is a place to gather together, support fellow members, and grow spiritually as a group.


At McConnell’s Jubilee ceremony, Metroka stated, “The capacity of one to have been able to grow within the Fraternity for so long and to have sprouted so many branches among young Masons is, for us, a time to contemplate; a time to rejoice, a time to reflect and a time to celebrate.”