Recording Moments of California Masonry

Alexandre Verquin, 19, awaits his cue to begin his first-degree conferral, with La France № 885, at the Sunset Masonic Temple in Santa Monica.


1/18/2024 | 6:06 p.m. 

As a candidate prepares to take the degrees of Masonry and absorb hundreds of years’ worth of tradition and symbology, they are first left alone for a moment of quietude. “In some ways, that was the most memorable part,” says Alexandre Verquin, who was initiated in January at La France № 885. Born in Paris and raised in Geneva, Verquin says he comes from several generations of Masons in France, Germany, and Switzerland. Upon moving to Los Angeles for school, he began researching local lodges. To his great surprise, a brand-new French-speaking group was being founded close to his new home. “I was surprised to find that there weren’t just French people there, but also members from Algeria, Morocco—all over,” he says. “I think it’s a great thing to be in contact with people from different backgrounds and different nationalities, to get together and do something that has such an impact. It’s a special feeling.”

California Masonic Foundation president Douglas Ismail answers questions from student journalists at Madison High School in San Diego.


10/9/2023 | 10:56 a.m. 

When California Masonic Foundation president Douglas Ismail arrived at Madison High School to announce a new $390,000 gift from the Foundation to the San Diego Unified School District to expand its building trades and automotive repair programs, he’d prepped for questions about the nature and mechanics of the grant. He just hadn’t expected them to come from the Tik-Tok generation—as happened when he was interviewed by the school’s broadcast news team.

No matter, he and fellow leaders from the fraternity and district were happy to explain the transformative potential of the gift, which will help expand the district’s college, career, and technical education programs. “Having access to CCTE programs as a part of a high school curriculum enables students to understand that there is a strong pathway to a stable, living wage outside of a four-year college program,” Ismail said.


7/28/2023 | 10:26 p.m. 

In Freemasonry, “light” refers to knowledge or wisdom. So what to make of the single 345-watt beam, projected through a “laser cannon,” that lit up the front of the California Masonic Memorial Temple in San Francisco for three nights this summer? (A brain wave? Divine inspiration?) In any case, the home of California Masonry was all aglow as part of the arts nonprofit Illuminate’s Summer of Awe light installation. The final project in that series involved affixing laser lights to the top of the Fairmont Hotel, trained on the famous Rose Window of Grace Cathedral (directly across California Street from the Masonic temple), bathing the top of Nob Hill in space-age hues. Thanks to some smooth talking from Khalil Sweidy, the Grand Lodge director of financial planning and a member of Prometheus No. 851, the CMMT got the same treatment—pointing the way, quite literally, to the font of Masonic light.

California Freemason Magazine: Illuminations Display at Nob Hill


5/20/2023 | 2:53 p.m. 

“I’ve passed by here every day and never known what goes on inside this building,” says Eric Simsuangco, master of San Leandro No 113. He’s relaying the most common refrain he heard during a recent open-house tour the lodge hosted, organized by the San Leandro Historical Society. As one of six stops on the group’s walking tour of notable local sites, the Masonic hall—home to San Leandro No 113, Eden Assembly No 11 of the Order of the Rainbow for Girls, and Bethel No 175 of Job’s Daughters—welcomed about 120 visitors who marveled at the curved glass windows at the building’s northwest corner, its pressed-brick pilasters, and its opalescent, colored glass windows.

Built in 1910 by architect William H. Weeks, the Masonic temple “contributed to the growth and stature of downtown San Leandro,” according to a historical society report. The tour was the first of its kind for the lodge, which invited members of the youth orders and Masonic Outreach Services to present information on their organizations during the tour. But it sounds like history will soon repeat itself, as the lodge is planning to open its doors again for next year’s walking tour.

Members of Burbank No 406 process through the lodge room during their annual officers’ installation. Walking, from left to right, are Junior Deacon Armen Hovannesian, Junior Warden Ricardo Cervantes, Junior Steward Odenis Vitoreli, and Senior Steward David Ter-Petrosyan


1/28/2023 | 6:12 p.m. 

Masons are taught that that at the end of their earthly toils, they’ll enter the celestial lodge above. For the members of Burbank N0 406, the heavens are a bit closer at hand, thanks to the hand-painted ceiling by past master and former Grand Orator Ron Cooper. With that fittingly starry canopy above, members gathered on January 28 for the first in-person officers’ installation since 2020, as Peter Babaian was seated as lodge master. “It was a bigger crowd than we expected,” reports secretary Jhairo Echevarria. Reporters from two local newspapers were on hand, along with three members of the Burbank City Council, including Mayor Konstantine Anthony, who presented two-term outgoing master Armen Khalafyan with a certificate of commendation. 

Members of Nevada No. 13 prepare for the ceremonial signing of the Declaration Of Independence. From Left: Past Grand Master John Trauner, Dennis Lewis, Gregg Novotny, John Carlisle IV, Tim Horner, Lee Wilbourne, Beryl Robinson, Brian Martin, Tim Brown, Jim Flaherty, and Brian Berg


9/18/2022 | 6:12 a.m. 

Custom and tradition are important concepts to Masonic lodges around the world. At Nevada No 13 in Nevada City, that’s never more in evidence than during the town’s annual Constitution Day Parade, when a cohort of the local lodge dons tricorn hats, powdered wigs, breeches, and hose as part of the yearly re-enactment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “Oh, it’s a big deal,” says lodge master Lee Wilbourne. “It gets us a lot of exposure, and people around here definitely look forward to it.”


7/9/2022 | 1:10 p.m. 

One of the most public displays of Freemasonry—and one of the fraternity’s oldest and most treasured traditions— is the Masonic cornerstone ceremony. From George Washington’s blessing of the Capitol building in 1793 to the California capitol’s cornerstone-laying in 1850, Masons for centuries have proudly dedicated civic monuments big and small. That tradition remains alive, as seen in a pair of events this summer in which Grand Master Jeffery M. Wilkins and other officers of the Grand Lodge joined with members of Chico-Leland Stanford No 111 and Reading-Trinity No 27 to dedicate Veterans’ Affairs buildings in Chico and Redding (the latter is pictured here).

2022 Grand Worthy Advisor Katie Sullivan makes an entrance at the Grand Assembly. Looking on, from left, are Cristina Morales, Trianna Dingman, Angelina Robles, Abigail Frye, Sami Maples, Karina Murugesu, Jordan Murphy, Jeanine Reyes, Kamryn Montegna, Hope Rodriguez, Ainsley Kay, and Megan Larson.


4/9/2022 | 1:26 p.m. 

It was a party 100 years in the making. This April in Fresno, members of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in California gathered to hold their Grand Assembly and celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary. Living up to their name, it was a colorful affair: Katie Sullivan, the 2022 Grand Worthy Advisor in California, made her entrance on a floral-covered Beetle driven by Dana Regier, the state supreme inspector, as other grand officers cheered her on. “Our pillars are leadership, sisterhood, and service, and that will never change,” says Dejah Urbanovitch, the director of leadership for an assembly in the San Fernando Valley. “There are some things that are just timeless.”

Junior Giants players team up before one of the non-competitive league’s game days.


It’s been two seasons since many of the youth baseball and softball leagues operated through the charitable foundations of California’s Major League Baseball teams were able to take the field. But at long last, the legions of young ballplayers—including more than 24,000 kids across California, Nevada, and Oregon associated with Junior Giants—are back in business. This season is the 12th year that California Masons have partnered with the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, L.A. Angels, and San Diego Padres through Masons4Mitts to support their youth programs. Learn more about the partnership, and the ways it has grown to incorporate more off-the-field programming on page 10. To donate, visit

Jeffery Wilkins kneels at the altar as he’s installed as grand master at the 172nd Annual Communication.


10/10/2021 | 12:30 P.M. 

After a year apart, more than 1,000 Masons, family members, and friends from across the state and the nation came together for the 172nd Annual Communication at the San Francisco Masonic Memorial Temple in October. The three-day event, which included the Grand Master’s Gala celebration, business sessions, and countless meetings between friends and lodge members, culminated with the installation of a new set of grand lodge officers. Jeffery Wilkins, of Mosaic Lodge No. 218 in Livermore, took the gavel as Grand Master of Masons in California. 

With a theme of crafting leadership, Grand Master Wilkins points to community engagement, improving the member experience, supporting the youth orders and other Masonic organizations, and raising awareness of the Masonic Center for Youth and Families as his priorities. “I know I never have to fulfill this important duty alone,” he says. “I have the Great Architect of the Universe to guide me, an amazing corps of officers serving with me, the best grand lodge staff in the world, and the full support of my wife, Liz, and my family. With all that support, I know I’ll be able to serve successfully.” 

Woodworker Robert Sanborn works on the grand marshal’s baton in his home workshop.


7/27/2021 10 a.m.

“The symbols I’m carving aren’t arbitrary,” explains Robert Sanborn, who this summer completed work for the 20th and final time on the hand-carved grand marshal’s baton used during the installation of officers at Annual Communication. The baton is an exact replica of a gift from the Grand Lodge of Scotland to mark the opening of the California Masonic Memorial Temple in 1958. The 27-inch-long baton, made of California black oak, includes a thistle at one end, an acorn at the other, and a four-sided mace featuring the St. Andrew’s cross, the square and compass, and the logos of both grand lodges. Near the top is a carving of a pineapple, a nod to the days when Hawaii fell under California’s Masonic jurisdiction. Sanborn (who is not a Mason), a furniture maker and art teacher in San Francisco, spends more than a month carving each instrument by hand. Having created each year’s piece since 2000, this year’s baton will be his last, as he’s officially hanging up his toolbelt.

Past Master Wellington Yee and Florencio de Guzman of Modesto No. 206 do a COVID-friendly variation on the Masonic grip before the lodge’s first in-person meeting in more than a year.


5/6/2021 | 7 p.m.

Fifteen months after all in-person Masonic events were suspended due to COVID-19, California lodges received the all-clear to resume meeting in May with safety precautions in place. Among the first groups to gather for a stated meeting was Modesto No. 206, which hit the ground running. A week after hosting their first in-person stated meeting, the lodge held a joint first degree conferral for Arvin Yadao and Joseph Libutan. A second-degree conferral was planned for the following week. “We’ve been staying busy,” says lodge master Marcial Gullem, Jr. “As soon as the grand master sent the proclamation, we sent our plan in and two days later, started holding weekly ritual practice.” As for getting back into the swing of things, Gullem says it’s like they’d never left. “It feels good. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”

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1/14/21 | 10:00 a.m.

The mood was bright at the Masonic Home in Union City, when residents received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine from Walgreens pharmacists. Resident and Master Mason Douglas Jackson from Rio Linda Lodge No. 786 was the first resident to receive the shot. Applause and laughter filled the halls as each resident and staff member was vaccinated. “You would think we just won a million dollars,” said Executive Director Soledad Martinez.

Over 500 doses were distributed to residents and staff on both Union City and Covina campuses over a two days on January 14 and 15.

Gary Charland, president and CEO of the Masonic Homes of California said, “I am so grateful this day has come for our residents and staff who have done a heroic job of keeping our residents healthy and safe. This is one step closer to protecting everyone from the virus, which has taken so many.”

An orange glow envelopes the California Masonic Memorial Temple. Photo by Winni Wintermeyer.


9/9/20 | 2:05 p.m.

The Bay Area was cast in Martian tones on September 9, as smoke from numerous fires burning across Northern California and Oregon poured into the region’s high atmosphere. Ash in the sky formed a blue-light-blocking filter, throwing an eerie pall over the area that lasted most of the day. By midafternoon, the California Masonic Memorial Temple in San Francisco was engulfed in the orange glow.