Donor Profile

Giving It as Good
As You Get

Life and business have been good to Bill Prentiss. But the real reward for the Orange County Mason is in paying it forward.


When Bill Prentiss’s kids were young, they developed a sort of secret family Christmas tradition. Without telling his wife where they were off to, Prentiss, a Mason of 27 years with Orange Grove Lodge No. 293, would load his two sons in the family van, head out for Costco, and fill up on groceries. Then they’d donate all of it to the local food bank. When the food bank worker would ask who they could thank for the generosity, they’d all say: Santa Claus. “Everything is a gift, the way I look at it,” Prentiss says. “It’s not ours. It’s only ours to watch over.”

Decades later, the longtime insurance broker still lives by that code of generosity and humility—traits he’s reinforced through his connection to Masonry. An Anniversary Level donor, Prentiss was presented a Hiram Award in 2017 for service to his lodge. We spoke to him about being called to—and then lost (and finally found) by—Masonry, and why the greatest gift is in giving.

California Freemason: How did you first get involved with Freemasonry?

Bill Prentiss: I was a DeMolay in Whittier, so I had the background, and I’d been raised in a Masonic household. I remember when I was initiated in DeMolay, the phrase was “Being worthy of the accommodation of all good men.” And a voice in my head said, “Yes. I want to be worthy of that.”

CFM: But it took a while before you joined, right?

BP: I remember asking my father about it at 16 or 17, and he said, “Ask me when you’re 21.” The problem is at 21 you’re busy doing other things. Life moved on. I got married, had children. I was sitting on the board of directors for a hospital, and at a meeting there was a break and I stepped outside when I noticed a gentleman with a square-and-compass lapel and we started a conversation. I finally asked the question.

CFM: Do you think you were ready by then?

BP: I think I’d grown up enough. I was ready. I had two young children, I had a career, I was well-recognized in my field. I needed something more in my life. The wonderful part was that my wife, who’d never heard of Masonry, finally asked me what it was like. And I said, “It was nice to be in a room full of me.”

CFM: You found that right away?

BP: I actually took a long time to get raised because they lost me. At the first lodge I joined, the person who’d been coaching me fell ill, and then the second person who was coaching me passed away. Then I just got lost in the shuffle. I finally ended up at Garden Grove Lodge.

CFM: Did learning Masonic craft shape your personal or business life?

BP: No doubt. My business has always been built on honesty and integrity. If you take care of the clients, the commission comes. They say all boats rise and fall with the tide, so if I make sure my client is doing well in bad times, we’re going to be in business in the good times, too. I’m proud to say I’ve had some clients for 37 years. And not just one or two, but five. That’s saying quite a bit.

CFM: How do you view giving back in the context of Masonic values?

BP: I’ve been blessed. I have an incredible wife, and incredible life, two wonderful sons who’ve given me four incredible grandsons. My business is successful, my clients are wonderful. I want to share that. It’s who I am, it’s what we are as a family. Giving back at Christmastime, that was my way of teaching my boys that this is what we do. And now my boys do the same thing with their children. And there’s the reward, all unto itself. They’ve paid it forward. When they call me up and say, “Dad, the feeling and the joy we get from doing this with our kids…” It gives you chills.

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