Earlier this month at the Grand Lodge Annual Communication in Marietta, Grand Lodge Officers gathered to meet and plan the direction of Ohio Freemasonry for the next year. As part of that meeting, The Grand Lodge of Ohio welcomed our newest Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Keith Newton. We recently sat down with him to chat about his life, his experience as a Mason and his plans for Ohio Freemasonry for the upcoming year.
Welcome, Grand Master. Thank you for speaking with us today. For our newest Brothers, or Brothers who may not yet know you, what would you like to say to them as you begin your tenure as Grand Master?
To my Brothers across Ohio, I will say: Make your own journey in Freemasonry. Make your Lodge what you want it to be. Live the basics. Live the charter and I would like all of us to hold our fellow Masons accountable to the Charter this year.
Our forefathers were quite smart when it came to building this fraternity. They made this and we need to strive to live by those values.
Going back to the beginning of your journey as a Freemason, what first inspired you to become a Mason? Have there been or are there other Masons in your family?
Well, my father is a Mason and I had an uncle who was a Mason. My father, a Past Master who went on to become a District Instructor, was the first active member in the family back in Pennsylvania where I grew up. While my father never influenced me to join Masonry, I was introduced to DeMolay as a young man.
In my youth I was a Master Councilor at DeMolay and, when I look back at that time, I consider it an important formative part of my life. All the influences of that time helped keep me on the right path and surrounded myself with the right people. What I learned in DeMolay – the lessons and values of the organization – served as the foundation of what ultimately drove me towards Freemasonry.
As a DeMolay, I was installed as Master Councilor in my father’s Lodge room which was much larger than the DeMolay hall and left a great impression on me. Later in life, it was my father who I approached and asked about becoming involved in the fraternity. The rest is history, as they say.
Can you tell us a bit more about your life growing up in Pennsylvania? Is it true you were a drummer?
In a past life, I was indeed a drummer. I started studying music in elementary school where I got serious and took private lessons for a while. I had my first drum set when I was 12 years old and played my first drum song with the elementary school band. I continued playing and was a drum major, a lead snare drummer in the high school band. It was actually in high school band where I met my wife, Sharon.
I always enjoyed music as well as the people who played music. After high school, I played in various bands around Pittsburgh until we left in our twenties. I played everything from country-western to jazz and big band – at my peak, I was playing three or four nights a week. Truth be told, I did nearly go to Las Vegas to try and make it as a professional drummer but I didn’t want to give up what I had with Sharon. She kept me around and we’ve been together ever since.
What led you from there to Ohio?
I was studying at the Pittsburgh School of Aeronautics before I got a job in Baltimore. We lived there for two years while I began my career in aviation. I happened to see an opportunity in Ohio and it made sense for us. Sharon has family in Columbus and my family, which is in Pennsylvania, are fairly close to Ohio. We decided to move and I started as an aircraft mechanic.
Is the move to Ohio what led you towards Freemasonry? Was it a way to find a community or because of your time in life?
It was partially the desire for a community and partially my time in life. I believe I always knew Masonry would be there for me someday and when we moved it was just the right time to join. My kids were a bit older, I was more established in my life and was seeking something else.
Check back for Part II of our Q&A with MWB Keith Newton where we delve into his first time attending Lodge, how he lives out Masonic values on a daily basis, and his plans for Ohio Freemasonry in the year ahead.