A planned veterans' memorial at the Masonic Homes' Union City Campus pays tribute to a legacy of military service.

By Ian A. Stewart

If the walls of the Masonic Homes could talk, they’d surely have some stories to tell. And it’s a safe bet a lot of them would be war stories. 

On November 11, the Union City campus will commemorate that legacy, with the grand master presiding over a groundbreaking for a new veterans memorial there. The monument will include the names of every current and former Masonic Homes resident who has served in the U.S. military. In preparation for the unveiling, longtime MHC volunteer JoAnne Wright and her son, Lyle, researched and documented the military credentials of 246 current and former occupants. 

Those efforts, Wright says, serve as a reminder of how close history is to the circa-1898 Homes. For more than 100 years, residents have provided a link to the defining events of the 20th century: Gus Anastole, a current resident and member of Mt. Moriah No. 292, was present when the U.S. flag was raised at Iwo Jima. John Dahle Jr. of Nevada No. 13 was aboard the USS Turner Joy in Da Nang Harbor at the close of the Vietnam War. Chuck Grech, of Burlingame No. 400, served on the USS Sablefish submarine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “I would sit there mesmerized, thinking about these stories,” Wright says. 

The tales go on: Clara Shurtz and Beatrice Gloeckler were among several women residents who were Navy yeomanettes during the First and Second World Wars. Jesse Domingo Gomez, formerly of Norwalk No. 315 (now Golden Trowel Norwalk No. 273), served alongside his brother on a U.S. Marine flamethrower-tank crew during WWII. Corwin Hayes of the former Covina No. 334 was one of five veterans of the Spanish– American War to live at the Homes. “It’s amazing to think about,” says Gary Charland, president of MHC. “I’m so glad we are able to honor their memory.” 

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