To have been in Freemasonry for 75 years and still be actively serving, is an achievement for which only a select few can be acknowledged. To still be willing to attend his various memberships is something to envy, especially when in his nineties. It is believed there are only two others in New Zealand at present, who have achieved that milestone.
Right Worshipful Brother Athol Thorpe is an inspiration, and to the many Masons he has helped, he is a Masonic father figure, a mentor and someone who definitely helped keep Masonry alive for a great number of people, including myself. He just needed to show by example and that’s what he did for me when I was wavering about my membership of the fraternity. A few carefully chosen words at the right time saved this member from leaving.
When I asked Athol if he would do it all again, the answer was a quick yes and when you consider his achievements in Masonry you can only wonder at the mark he has made on the fraternity. He said he was lucky to have had the support of two wives, Valerie and Beth, who allowed him to participate fully in the Craft. Athol married Beth after Valerie died a few years previously. He and Valarie had one son. His younger brother, is also a member of Lodge Tawhiri.
Herbert Athol Thorpe was born 22 May 1924, in Forest Lake Road, Hamilton and still lives not far away in the suburb of St Andrews.
He was initiated as a Lewis into the Te Marama Lodge No 186 in Ngaruawahia on 7 September 1942, passed on 11 January 1943 and raised to Master Mason on 25 February 1943. His father and grandfather, both Masons, were present.
In 1946 Athol resigned from Te Marama Lodge after he got lost in a classic Waikato fog while travelling back to Hamilton late one night. He joined Lodge Tawhiri No 166, which at that time, was a Railway Lodge in Frankton Junction, and he is still a participating member, after 71 years. He well remembers the tornado that destroyed the Kent Street lodge rooms in 1948 and he was instrumental in the Lodge’s eventual move to the present premises in Barton Street, central Hamilton.
He became the Master of Lodge Tawhiri in 1955 and went on to become a Grand Steward in 1973, Senior Grand Deacon in 1981, Assistant Provincial Grand Master 1990, and became a Past Grand Warden in 1998.
He is involved with other masonic Orders namely the Royal Arch and Cryptic Council, Rose Croix, Knights Templar and Secret Monitor.
Asked if he had time to participate in other activities outside of Masonry and he explained that he had been Commodore of the Hamilton Cruising Club. He had been an active member of Jaycees and was part of the representative team of New Zealand servicemen who went to the Islands to celebrate the anniversary of the war in the Pacific.
Athol retired from work as an Insurance Agent in 1976 at the age of 51 after his doctor gave him six months to live. He did, however, continue and intensify his Masonic duties and he’s been 41 years in active Masonic service since that diagnosis. You have to wonder if the doctor forgot about the determination and perseverance of this man that we can all admire for his achievements and dedication to Freemasonry.
At the regular meeting of Lodge Tawhiri No 166 on Tuesday 5th September, the Grand Master, MWBro Mark Winger, presented RWBro Athol Thorpe with a certificate marking his 75 years in Freemasonry.
Photo – L ToR MWBro Mark Winger Grand Master, RWBro Athol Thorpe Pat Grand Warden (75 Years), MWBro Ian Ross Past Grand Master and MWBro David Mace Past Grand Master