Posted by Bill Egnatoff on May 22, 2019
Mark and Jackie Blakey with Rick Fiedorec
Guest Speaker, Mark Blakey, Past Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Ontario
Shirley Blakey, Past Grand Chaplain
Rick Fiedorec, President, Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston, who thanked Mark and Shirley, presenting them with a loaf of bread, the club tradition

President-Elect Ana Sutherland introduced Mark. Ana had met with Shirley Blakey, who suggested that our club consider using the Odd Fellows Hall for meetings. That led to the Odd Fellows Hall becoming our meeting place earlier this year, and then on May 21st. It seemed a natural step to invite Mark and Shirley so that we could learn about our hosts and their organization. We discovered many parallels of values, fellowship, and service between Odd Fellows and Rotary. 


Mark was pleased and honoured to have our club meeting in their Odd Fellows home. His Rotary connection began in childhood in New Brunswick when he helped his Rotarian father sell peanuts!

The best thing about being Grand Master was sharing the Odd Fellows message throughout Ontario. That message included many similarities between the precepts of Odd Fellows and those of Rotary, including connections between Odd Fellows motto, “Friendship, Love, and Truth” and Rotary's Four Way Test.  For more information about Odd Fellows' mission and principles, see Independent Order of Odd Fellows: The Sovereign Grand Lodge, where you'll learn that:


  • To improve and elevate the character of mankind by promoting the principles of friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice.
  • To help make the world a better place to live in, by aiding each other, the community, the less fortunate, the youth, the elderly, and the environment in every way possible.
  • To promote good will and harmony amongst peoples and nations through the principle of universal fraternity, holding the belief that all men and women regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, gender, rank and station are brothers and sisters.

Odd Fellows began in the 1700s in England. If a man who worked for a lord died, his children and wife were cast off. Odd Fellows set up a fund to support them. It's based on universal brotherhood. Only eighteen years ago, Odd Fellows began accepting women; before that, they were Rebekahs. Odd Fellows enjoy working serving others, working with people to help them prosper. They teach humility; forgiveness is key. First fraternity to include both men and women was in the US. Rebekah started Sept 20th, 1851. Numbers declined greatly during the Great Depression, since it was too expensive. Then, with Roosevelt's New Deal, the need for Oddfellows declined. In 1971 the Independent Order of Oddfellows changed its constitution. In 1979, there were about 243,000 members, but there are many fewer now. In Kingston, in the '50s and '60s, there were three lodges and about 1200 members. Now there is one lodge and about 30 members.
Many notable Kingstonians were members. Sir John A. MacDonald was one of five founding members and he was the first Noble Grand Master. The showcase in the hall displays medals from the collection of Dr. A. E. Ross, who invented the ambulatory field. Odd Fellows has lodges world-wide, including in Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland. It is a fraternity and used to be hand-in-hand with the Freemasons, but the two organizations went separate ways.

In Kingston, Odd Fellows has a long history of serving the community. (Unfortunately, the membership got too comfortable and didn’t add new members, but it is now recruiting again.) They store and loan hospital equipment such as walkers, crutches, and wheel chairs. They look after pickup and delivery. Mark and Shirley have travelled across Ontario and in Europe. Empire Life used to be Oddfellows Insurance, started in Kingston. Empire purchased the building and took the name. The three-link logo, symbolizing Friendship, Love, and Truth, remains on Empire Life buildings. Another major claim to fame is their work withTB, Polio, and Measles. In 1985 two doctors and another man started Camp Trillium for children with cancer. It's programs grew to span the whole summer. Camps are on Rainbow Lake and Gareth Island, across from Picton Beach. Eight years ago the owner of the island died and Oddfellows purchased it for $1.2M, which took eight years of fundraising, finished last Christmas. They are now undertaking fundraising for a medical centre.

We're all invited next Tuesday, May 28th, 7:30 p.m., to an open meeting. Ana and Rick are invited to speak about Rotary.

Questions and Answers

Greta: Your members are in what age group?

Mark: About 85 when I joined, now 50s, 60s; some younger new recruits. There are scholarships for children of Odd Fellows

Rick: How long have you been in this building?

Mark: We've been in this building since 1979, but in Kingston since 1857 (not verified). We're the oldest Lodge in Kingston--Cataraqui Lodge #10. Brockville is #9,  but soon will close. Chris Burgess, an Oddfellow, was recently honoured as a Paul Harris Fellow.

Michelle: Shirley had the position of Grand Chaplain. Is Odd Fellows rooted in Christian tradition?

Mark: It is not based on any religion. It teaches you who we are by skits; e.g., David and Goliath. As long as you believe in a supreme being, you may be a member.

Rick: There are more similarities (with Rotary) than I had realized.