Today, Dec. 18, marks the passing of one of the greatest men in American history. It is the 200-year anniversary of George Washington's death.
Not only is this date important in the history of the United States, but it is also important to the Freemasons.
The Freemasons are a fraternity of men who share common interests and beliefs. They stress the ideals of "making good men better" and "a shared belief in God."
Washington was one of many men who helped shape the nation who was also a part of the Freemasons. Freemasons today still strive to maintain the values held so dear by these creators of what is arguably the greatest republic in the history of civilization.
According to Bill Hesselgren, secretary of Yampa Lodge 88 in Craig, the ideals Washington and the Freemasons hold dear will be important and relevant into the next millennium.
"He was the first president of the United States and also a worshipful master of his local lodge," said Hesselgren. "On the eve of a new millennia and the 200th anniversary of his interment, consider the values he espoused and tenaciously held to, and be glad of who he was, where he was, and when. Honor his memory with us this day, and take his example to heart this day forward."
As one of the most prominent Freemasons of the day, Washington's funeral Dec. 18, 1799, was attended by many Masonic, government and other dignitaries, according to Hesselgren.
A past Freemason grand master of Colorado was a driving force behind the national centennial commemoration of Washington's death that included a ceremony at Mount Vernon in Virginia, according to Hesselgren.
The centennial observance was attended by grand masters from most states and many foreign countries, President William McKinley, other dignitaries and thousands of supporters.
Many local ceremonies were held in Colorado, including a unified observance in Denver at Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church.
Following is an excerpt from President Grand Master (PGM) Alphonse A.
Burnand's address at Mount Vernon, Va., on Dec. 18, 1899: "We have assembled today from every part of our great land in the character of Freemasons, not for ostentatious display, but to offer to the memory of our brother a renewal of that heart-felt homage and sincere tribute of reverence and affection which our brethren and countrymen felt, when 100 years ago, they laid him to rest in that peace which the world can neither give nor take away.
"Love and admiration are due from us, not only as Freemasons, but as citizens of this great republic, for whom liberty and life he gave those years which are usually devoted by men to the pursuit of personal interest.
"Brethren, I wish we could all carry with us from this place a patriotism, love of country and fellow man, which would enable us to always place our country's interest in the van of our own, a trait which would elevate us upon a plane far above that of wealth, social ambition or political glory.
"Let us then on the eve of the Twentieth Century, upon this ground sanctified by the memory of ashes of that great man and brother who left his impression upon the world for all time, resolve to imitate his unselfish example and so leave our children that richest of endowments, a life devoted to God, country and home."