posted Jan 4, 2011, 12:09 PM by Kevin Laitinen
updated Jan 4, 2011, 12:10 PM
Richard James Stewart of Shrewsbury, MA was installed as the 87th Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, following such Past Grand Masters as Paul Revere, General Joseph Warren, and Arthur W. Coolidge, former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. It is a volunteer position that generally lasts for three years. An election and installation takes place in the second and third years of the Grand Master’s term.
As Grand Master, Brother Stewart presides over 36,000 Masons and 235 lodges throughout the Commonwealth. The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts was chartered in 1733, following the establishment of the Grand Lodges of England in 1717 and Ireland in 1725; making the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts the third oldest Grand Lodge in the world and the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Due to this precedent, the Grand Master of Massachusetts is often referred to as the third “ranking” Mason in the world. In 2008 the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts marked its 275th Anniversary.
The Grand Master has two distinct responsibilities. First, he serves as the fraternal leader of the society. In this capacity he ensures the activities taking place within the jurisdiction comply with the Constitutions and Regulations of the Grand Lodge as initially adopted in 1792 and amended through 2007. He also has numerous ceremonial privileges reserved for his position.
The second primary responsibility of the Grand Master is leading the business of the Grand Lodge, including:
● Chairman, Grand Lodge Board of Directors.
● President, Masonic Education & Charitable Trust (MECT). The MECT is a 501(c)3 overseeing the charitable activities of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
● Chairman, Grand Lodge Library and Museum Board of Directors. A 501(c)3 responsible for Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library and the Grand Lodge Museum Collection, both of which are open to the public.
● Chairman, Masonic Heath System (MHS) Board of Directors. Based in Charlton, MA, the MHS includes the Overlook Life Care Community featuring independent, enhanced, and skilled nursing, and a post-acute unit; and, the Overlook Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice Services, Inc, caring for more than 1,700 patients each day.
Born Burlington, VT, Stewart was raised in Worcester and educated in the Worcester Public School system. He graduated from North High School in 1961. In 1963 he was hired by Charles P. Lauman Co., Inc. in Westborough as a salesman. He purchased the company in 1975 and currently serves as Chairman and Treasurer. It is an ISO 9002 certified company. In 1972 Stewart completed 10 years of service in the United States Coast Guard Reserves. He left as a First Class Damage Controlman.
In 1966 he began his Masonic career by joining Athelstan Lodge (now Guiding Lights Lodge), Worcester. He served as the Worshipful Master, or presiding officer, in 1974-1975. Masons use the original definition of “worshipful, meaning “honorable”; English mayors and judges are still addressed as “Worshipful.” As Grand Master, Brother Stewart will be called “Most Worshipful.” He is also a member of Mount Lebanon Lodge, Boston; Norumbega Fraternity Lodge, Newtonville; The Masters Lodge, Needham (Worshipful Master, 1995-1996); Winslow Lewis Lodge, Boston (Worshipful Master, 1997-1999); Rose of Sharon Lodge, Charlton (Worshipful Master, 2007-2008). He is an Honorary Member of Mount Holyoke Lodge, South Hadley Falls; The Independence Lodge, Malden; and, The Scouters Lodge, Holden.
Grand Master Stewart was Co-Chairman of the Athelstan Lodge Blood Drive Program between 1974 and 1982. During this time the Lodge was honored numerous times by the American Red Cross for its blood collection program. His efforts brought him to the attention of Right Worshipful W. Terence Stephens, Chairman of the Grand Lodge Service Committee, who had Bro. Stewart appointed to the Committee in 1980. He has served Grand Lodge in some capacity every year since.
In 1982 M.W. J. Philip Berquist appointed Bro. Stewart Junior Grand Deacon, with responsibility for attending to the Grand Master. That same year he received the Joseph Warren Medal for Distinguished Service to the fraternity. In 1985 and 1986 he served as Grand Tyler – guarding the outer door when Grand Lodge was meeting. In 1986 he was named a Grand Representative to the Grand Lodge of Denmark, a position he still holds. From 1987 through 1989 he was the Grand Sword Bearer, assisting R.W. Lowell U. Hammett, Grand Marshal for M.W. Albert T. Ames. He was Grand Pursuivant in 1990, responsible for the admission and seating of members and visitors.
M.W. Edgar W. Darling selected Bro. Stewart Deputy Grand Master, the second highest ranking Mason in the state, in 1992. During that year he was also awarded the Henry Price Medal, the most prestigious honor conferred by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Beginning in 2004 he served on the Grand Lodge Board of Directors for a three-year term. He was re-elected in 2007 for a second term. A Director may only serve for two terms before he is required to step down.
In 2007 he was installed as M.W. Roger W. Pageau's Grand Marshal. In addition to serving as the Grand Master’s escort and directing the formation of processions, the Grand Marshal is often one of the Grand Master’s closest advisors. Throughout Most Worshipful Brother Pageau’s three-year term, the new Grand Master was involved in making decisions about the operation of Grand Lodge, the selection and appointment of officers, and other important matters. His familiarity with the opportunities for the fraternity to advance and improve, as well as the issues and challenges it faces, has him well-positioned to begin his tenure ahead of the normal learning curve for a new Grand Master.
Active in several Masonic organizations, Most Worshipful Brother Stewart is a member of the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Worcester. In 1988 and 1989 he led the Chapter of Rose Croix, one of four bodies within Scottish Rite, as Most Wise Master. He belongs to Saint Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter, Boston Council, and Saint Bernard’s Commandery #12 of the York Rite; as well as the Massachusetts College, Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis, the Knights of the Red Cross of Constantine, and the York Rite Sovereign College – all York Rite-affiliated bodies that members join by invitation only. He is also a member of Aleppo Shriners, Wilmington, MA.
In 1991, Bro. Stewart received his 33° at the Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America. About one-third of the country’s 1.5 million Masons become 32° Scottish Rite Masons. Of those, less than 1% receives the 33° recognizing their service to humanity, their community, or Freemasonry. Most recently he was made an Honorary Legion of Honor, the highest recognition that can be bestowed by the DeMolay Supreme Council. It is conferred on a Freemason who was not a DeMolay, but who has performed meritorious service in behalf of the Order of DeMolay, an international organization for your men between 12 and 21 that is sponsored by Masons.
A classic car enthusiast and the owner of a 1955 Jaguar and a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, Stewart has had the T-Bird since he was 17. The car has won many national meets sponsored by the Antique Auto Club of America. He also owns a 2004 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Screaming Eagle. He is a member of the Harley Owners Group and the Overlook Riders, a group of motorcycle riders affiliated with Overlook Masonic Health System, Charlton. He also enjoys landscape gardening and once had his yard featured in Better Homes & Gardens.