In Lodge and in Life … 70-Year Brothers Walk the Same Path04.01.2019
By Beth Grace
It was hot in Gatesville, NC, on July 21, 1949.
Darned hot … 91 degrees-in-the-shade hot.
The post-World War II world had rebuilt and moved on, savoring the peace. In Washington, President Truman prepared for a news conference. Three-thousand miles to the west, Tokyo Rose was on trial in San Francisco, accused of making traitorous broadcasts. At the movie house, She Wore a Yellow Ribbonplayed in Technicolor as John Wayne fans tried to cool off in the darkened theater.
And just south of the Virginia-North Carolina border, two young men in their Sunday best made their way to the door of Gatesville #126.
They arrived separately that Thursday … but their journey was about to launch a stream of parallel life moments that would last for the next 70 years.
Luther Haywood Eure and Hagood Lilton Umphlett Jr. had known each other since they were toddlers. Their mothers would meet up for quilting bees or put in a day’s work at popping peanuts, while their boys raced and ran and played and grew. As they grew up, they often double-dated.
At 21, they were ready to take their place in Freemasonry, as many men in their families had done before them.
They completed all three degrees in less than a month.
They learned the same catechisms on the same day at the same place.
They attained all three degrees on the same three days.
They were raised on the same day.
The coincidences don’t stop there.
They would each get a job at the Union Camp paper mill – different departments -- on the same day.
And they would retire on the very same day in 1991.
Here’s the kicker: Outside the lodge, neither brother knew that they were making the same life-changing moves at the same time.
Just last month, their coincidental journey continued. Both men gathered with their families to receive – together -- their 70-year service awards, presented by Grand Master Dwight “Mack” Sigmon.
At 91, Luther and Lilton chuckle at the coincidences and shake their heads in wonderment. Both men have taken their stories in strode, while family, friends and brothers always are amazed when they hear the story.
“We’ve known each other all our lives,” says Lilton. “I guess we just never thought we were anything out of the ordinary.”
Both men say they never doubted that they would grow up to become Freemasons.
“I had grown up with Masons and knew a lot about them,” says Luther. “I saw their good works and wanted to be part of it. There was never a question in my mind that I would join.”
Lilton smiles at the memory of his own journey toward Masonry.
“When I joined everybody told me, ‘We just knew you were going to join,’” he says. “So many in my family were members and I wanted to join as well.”
They have wonderful memories of years spent working with their brothers. Lilton particularly recalls one year when he and some brothers visited some 75 lodges in North Carolina and Virginia as part of a project aimed at encouraging brothers to visit other lodges.
Both attend the lodge regularly. Luther says it is so much easier in retirement.
“When you’re doing shift work as a young man, it’s not always easy to get to the lodge regularly,” he says. “But we haven’t missed a whole lot of meetings since we retired.”
Asked what advice they would offer to young men new to the Craft, Luther urges them to “never stop going. Stay active. That’s what it’s all about.”