Coronavirus and Odd Fellowship -by Toby Hanson PGM WA

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Toby Hanson
Junior Past Grand Master
Grand Lodge of Washington, IOOF

Sovereign Grand Musician
Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Here in the Pacific Northwest we’re not used to being on the forefront of anything. Apart from the occasional successful sports team or the rise of grunge music, we rarely attract attention. Recently, our close ties to Asia have put us on the forefront of the news for a very sobering reason: Coronavirus.

Currently, as I write this, the virus is ransacking our vulnerable populations in Western Washington. Residential care facilities for the elderly have been some of the hardest hit as hundreds are infected and dozens have already succumbed to its morbid conclusion. For the rest of us, we’re dealing with the strange side effects of hysteria like toilet paper shortages in our stores and cancelations of various group activities.


I am self-employed as a musician. This means that I depend on having gatherings of people and public events for about three-quarters of my income. All over Western Washington there are people whose lives are being impacted by the various quarantines and restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the virus. Servers are not getting called into work as traffic at restaurants is down. Caregivers are being stretched thin as they have to work overtime to cover for ill colleagues. Hotels and convention centers are sitting empty with all of their workers idle as events are canceled. The livelihoods of tens of thousands around the region are being threatened as life is torn up and walled off to protect people. All those people, like myself, are looking at a bleak financial future as sources of income are drying up right in front of us. A new initiate, who just joined the Order in late February, asked me a question: what’s going to happen to all of us who are dependent on gatherings of people to make a living? Are the banks going to stop collecting mortgage payments? Will the utilities give us grace periods to get caught up?

The best and most complete answer to this situation is found within the walls of our lodges. Odd Fellowship has its roots in the need of for self-preservation for the most vulnerable in society. The only means by which early working families had of blunting the cruel torrents of life was by contributing to mutual aid groups like the Odd Fellows. In our lodges, they found stability in an unfeeling, unstable world. We provided a measure of comfort when difficult times arrived. Odd Fellowship was never about personal glories or tributes or regalia or amassing acclaim. It was about finding ways to band together and help each other out in difficult circumstances.

The Odd Fellows Valediction is the perfect length for timing proper hand washing.

It’s at times like this when I wish we would not have abandoned the practice of paying out benefits to our members because these are the times when that kind of beneficial membership would be most valuable. Now would be the time when the Three Links of Odd Fellowship would shine like a beacon of stability when the world is tossed asunder by the crashing swells of chaos. Even without that beneficial membership we’ve abandoned in the past, we still have the solace of knowing our lodges are strong, stable places where we can meet for mutual consolation. I know that if my situation were to become dire my brothers and sisters in lodge would come to my aid in whatever capacity they’re able. Even just knowing they’ve got my back is very reassuring.

Our Order has withstood many challenges to humanity in its many centuries. Just in the two hundred years of the Independent Order we have faced wars, famines, disease outbreaks, natural calamities, and all manner of smaller-scale tragedies. Through it all, we’ve been there to lend a helping hand to our members to ensure that their need does not go unnoticed. We can never know when a major disaster is about to alter our lives in some unsuspecting way. All we can do is be good and faithful Odd Fellows so that we’re prepared to help when called upon. In the common parlance of the Internet, “Today you; tomorrow me.” Our ritual contains the same sentiments, albeit dressed up a little more, but it teaches the same lesson: we can never know when tragedy will strike the mightiest among us and render them weak and helpless. We must always be prepared to extend the hand of charity because we can never know when we’ll be on the giving or the receiving end.

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3 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Odd Fellowship -by Toby Hanson PGM WA

  1. In 1938 I was just over 18 and had been a sailor for 4 years one year in the Merchant Marine as apprentice Cadet officer there was a world wide Recession going on there was no hope of my being able to get to pass as a third mate at 18 so I got my parents to cancel the apprenticeship and sign me up for three years service as a boy seaman, from age 15 to 18 to be followed by 12 years man service.In March 1938 I joined a Royal Naval Lodge of Odd fellows in the Manchester Unity I hardly ever saw my home Lodge again but visited many lodges all over this world just after my initiation my ship the Battle Cruiser Hood got orders to sail for the Mediterranean Station this was a two and a half year Commission.Much was going on there I served in the Holy Land twice on police duties stopping the Palestinians from making crude bombs to kill us sailors and the Israelis, next we had the Spanish Civil War we had two so called allies in this operation the Italians and the German Navy but they were both very active helping General Franco our task was to stop the Italian Navy submarines from sinking the ships delivering food to the Spanish harbors ,and our German Navy partners were sinking Spanish Royal Naval ships.Both of our partners were actively practicing for WW2 under the guise of helping Franco,as a side line my ship was ordered to go into the Red Sea we landed 600 sailors in the Sudan to rescue Hallie Selassie the last Christian Emperor of Ethiopia and his family when Mussolini Air Force bombed his capital Addis Ababa with poison gas ps the League of Nations did not censer him for this action and remember all this I am relating took place in peace time we still had to have 6 years of war to start from Sept 3 1939 TO late 1945 when I was serving on an Australian Destroyer under US Admiral Halsey in the Pacific fleet because my ship was the Admirals Kamikaze Destroyer he gave us the honor to lead the combined fleets into Tokyo Bay for the surrender.Now I am a member of Black Diamond Lodge and Past Noble Grand now 101 years of age yours inFLT Victor


    1. Dear Brother Victor,
      What a great reply!!! thanks for your service in the Royal Navy, your service to Odd fellowship, and your service to humanity. Thank you also for sharing your story and what a story it is!!!! I truly enjoyed reading it.


  2. That’s is a very subtle reminder on how we rise up and support or community in such times of covid19 I am very elated to be part of such a honorable society.


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