The title of this article and the ones to hopefully follow denote the many Brothers who have worked and continue to work diligently for the good of Masonry and community not for the “Laurel wreath” or “Jewels fit to grace…an Eastern potentate”.
W Richard “Dick” Stephen Blankfein is the first report under the heading “ Brothers Behind the Curtain”. Through these Brother’s good works they hope to inspire all Masons reading this and the following columns to go out into their communities and do something to make a difference in someone’s life or in the wellbeing of your community.
Brother Dick could have joined Cornucopia Lodge, of which his father was a member, but opted to join Whitestone Lodge because it was closer to his office and his uncle PM Sol Blankfein was very involved with Masonry in Whitestone Lodge and was closer minded with Brother Dick’s Masonic interests.
Brother Dick was initiated, passed and raised in early 1958 in what was then Whitestone Lodge #973 on June 3, raised just two days before his 23rd birthday. A few days later he reported to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for training as an artillery officer and began his two years of service in the Army. During his service time he was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia. While in the Army he became a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason in the Valley of Columbus, in the Orient of Georgia. He also joined Al Sihah Shriners in Macon Georgia, and still maintains membership in both these fraternal bodies.
In 1960 upon Brother Dick’s return to civilian life, he applied and was accepted to New York Law School. After rigorous studies he graduated and became a member of the New York Bar. Soon after he became interested in scuba diving and received all the accreditation for diving as well as teaching diving. When he retired from his law practice and other occupations, he accepted a job at the New York Aquarium as Diver Safety Officer. He has retired from “work” but has formed a core group of divers with whom he still dives today in remote areas of the world.
During all this time life got in the way of Brother Dick’s Masonic involvement, but he kept up his dues and early this past fall he decided to make a comeback to Masonic life returning to Francis Lewis Lodge #273. Since coming back, he has instituted a very good way of promoting Brotherhood, having every Brother in the Lodge wear a name tag, which works great for new Brothers and also for those Brothers who have trouble remembering names.
One reason for returning to Masonry and Francis Lewis Lodge, as the successor lodge of Whitestone, the lodge of which he was master in 1971, was that he could not stand being retired. The idea of not having work or something to do or a goal to achieve was making him and his wife a little crazy. He reads quite a bit and is still in pretty good shape for being 79. He received a meeting notice from Francis Lewis Lodge and decided to come back. He was happy in the past with Masonry and still enjoys and looks forward to coming to meetings. As Brother Dick still has life in his body he is always looking for something more to do with his life and Masonry.
“We can’t convince our Brothers to come to Lodge every meeting but when you’re trying to run a program you need people to commit to a schedule because there are many people and things that depend on Brothers being there!” He holds on to this rigorous type of an attitude perhaps from his military training or from being a lawyer. Commitment and honor are paramount in Brother Dick’s mind, “If you say you’re going to do something, do it!” This has always been important to him. He recalls something that happened to him when he was training raw recruits in the Army down in Georgia, (when he became a Scottish Rite Mason and a Shriner. He still keeps up all his dues to this day). What was important to him was that when he took his men out on maneuvers, making sure that his men were ok, no blisters on their feet after a long forced march and making sure they were all bedded down before he even looked to see where he was going to sleep. His men respected him because he respected and cared about his men’s welfare and because of this he had no AWOLs in his platoon compared to the other officers in his battle-group with 1 or more AWOL’s, a true gentlemen and officer.
Brother Dick says its fine being back in Lodge, he loves it and really enjoys being there with all his Brothers again. But, he feels Lodge is not fulfilling enough for him, he needs something that will keep him truly stimulated and he says he has found it. What he wants to do is work with an organization that the N.Y. Masons can support and are behind. He feels this would be fantastic. Well Brother Dick has found something to work with that is stimulating and fulfilling and he hopes to get support not only from the Queens Lodges but possibly from the Grand Lodge of New York as well. Brother Dick has a colleague, Jim Elliott, the founder and President of Diveheart, who is a volunteer and has been helping children, adults and veterans with disabilities, and Brother Dick would like to get some funding help for this outstanding work. Brother Dick wants to bring Diveheart’s programs and accomplishments to our area. He feels this is the right thing to do, helping people to help themselves. This is another road for him to take that will open up a whole different world for him and maybe get some Brothers who are involved in diving to broaden their understanding of what they can do to enrich not only their own lives but the lives of those with disabilities around them.
Brother Dick wants to bring N.Y. Masons into this endeavor because he feels that this is something that will bring more youth to our organization, a young and fresher way of looking at Masonry and what Masons do for their community. Our younger Brothers are looking for more than just a meal and working their way through the chairs, they not only want to help themselves but to help those that live in the area surrounding their Masonic Lodge to live a better life. This is Brother Dick’s way of helping our community, by becoming involved in “Diveheart.org”.
“Imagine the Possibilities”, that is the mantra of Diveheart. This is a true passion of Brother Dick and he has every intention of following it, if this is the last thing he does with his life he will be delighted. Brothers helping people, this is what Masonry is all about. Young or old helping others, we aren’t “behind the curtain” to hide from the world, Masons just want to help those in need, not for publicity but for humanity.
There is a quote from the Diveheart Adaptive Diver manual’s introduction: “Not only will you be a member of an elite and privileged community who can explore, enjoy and experience the beautiful and exciting underwater world, you will be empowered with a new and enhanced sense of your own capacities. No longer will you view your disability as an impediment to things you may want to do, but rather you will adapt and pursue any endeavor with a “can do” attitude. You are about to embark on a journey filled with fun adventure and immeasurable rewards.” I think that sums up Brother Dick’s desires at this point in his life.
Thank you Brother Dick for your inspiration and for being so young and energetic, you truly set the bar higher for all Masons. I am glad you shared your vision with all the Brothers in Queens.
W. Nick Isabella
Queens District Historian