ROCKINGHAM — Mike Perdue of Rockingham Moose Lodge 1838 became the first Fellow in his lodge to achieve the international order’s highest honor when he became a Pilgrim at a ceremony during which he was presented the gold blazer Saturday.
Alvin “Junior” Stroud of Black Mountain, who serves as acting Pilgrim governor, said Perdue’s achievement of the Pilgrim degree is a major accomplishment.
“There’s never more than 3,000 Pilgrims in the whole (worldwide) fraternity at any one time,” he said. “This year, we got five. Last year, it was four. Sometimes we don’t get but three.”
Stroud said the degree is first conferred at the House of God at Mooseheart in Chicago.
“That’s the only place you can get the Pilgrim Degree of Merit,” he explained. “And then once it’s done there, we have a ceremony in each Pilgrim’s home lodge to present him with his blazer.”
Moose historian Al Reel of Marion said the names of those to receive the degree are kept secret until after the Mooseheart presentation, and briefly explained the various degrees within the organization.
“Pilgrims recommend other Fellows to become Pilgrims, so that’s the election process,” Reel said. “The first degree is Moose Member. The second degree is Moose Legion. Anyone can be a Moose Legionnaire after six months of membership. Then, you have to be a Member for a minimum of five years and be selected by members of the Fellowship degree and the Pilgrim degree in your lodge to get the Fellowship degree.
“Then you have to have another five years, a total of ten minimum, to receive the Pilgrim Degree,” he continued. “The Pilgrim is recommended by members of the Pilgrim degree, and then that is sent to Mooseheart. They look at it, they verify the recommendation with his record, and send it back to the regional manager who makes the final decision. It is the highest honor in the Moose.”
Stroud said the Moose organization was founded in 1888 in Louisville, Kentucky.
“My understanding was, a couple of other fraternal organizations wanted a more benevolent organization to do stuff for people,” he said. “And they liked the ritual in one of the organizations, so they combined the ritual. We have one kind of enrollment ceremony when they come into the lodge, and different ceremony when they come into the Moose Legion. Each degree is a conferral degree so there’s a lot of ritual involved.”
In addition to various charities performed for the betterment of each lodge’s community, Moose charities include the Mooseheart Child City and School in Chicago, and Moosehaven retirement community in Florida.
“We have different plans on the Moosehaven,” Reel explained. “We have what we call the traditional plan, where if you’ve served for 15 years and you’re 65 years of age, it’s a surrender program where you turn your assets over and they take care of you for the rest of your life.”
“Medical and everything,” Stroud added. “We have our own health care facilities.”
“And we had some land that was not being used, and we built what’s called Branden Place,” Reel said. “And that’s kind of a buy-in. You still get to live at the Moosehaven and eat there with them, use the pool and the gym, the libraries. You’re still a part of the community, but you’re on a pay-as-you-go, where the others are on a surrender program. It’s 60 acres on the St. John’s River.”
He said that each of the 60 lodges in the state is required to do charitable work for it’s respective community.
“A lot of times it’s some like when a family has a home destroyed by a fire or hurricane,” Stroud explained. “And a lodge will help them with food and shelter on a temporary basis. And there are lots of other things like that.”
Dave Fearn, governor of lodge 1838, said the Rockingham lodge is known for its holiday giving.
“Our biggest as a lodge here is we serve the senior citizens Thanksgiving dinner every year, and we served over 420 people last year,” he said. “And the outpouring from their thankfulness is awesome to see. We also have the girls from our Mooseheart Child City, they get to come down and make a trip through North Carolina. It’s about a 10-day trip, and Rockingham has been a host lodge for about 15 years.”
Perdue serves as administrator for Chaper 1428, and is expected to continue the charitable works of the Moose in his community.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.