Brother Jose Concepcion, Lodge No. 408, Meadville, was born and raised in inner city Philadelphia, surrounded by gangs, drugs, crime and frequent shootings.
“The stuff they show in action movies is a fairy tale compared to what I saw and have been through. There really weren’t any positive role models besides my family,” he said.
Brother Jose has always loved history and arts. One of his sanctuaries in the city was the Masonic Temple, where he always found a sense of peace.
He moved from Philadelphia to Meadville where he met his wife, and they had a daughter, who would eventually lead him on his Masonic journey. After separating from his wife, Brother Jose was left to raise his daughter on his own.
“I have been playing both roles as mom and dad, and I love it,” he said.
His daughter has special intellectual and physical needs. As part of her treatment for scoliosis, she and Brother Jose visited the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Erie. He didn’t have a car, so a transportation van from the hospital would pick up him and Chloe for appointments.
“The driver and his co-pilot were Freemasons and Shriners,” Brother Jose said. “One day I asked about who they really are and how I become one. The driver said, ‘Sir, you just made your first step,’ and handed me a petition. I held on to that petition for several years, but life got busy, and I forgot about it.”
Once he was ready to join, having lost his original petition, he contacted Lodge No. 408. That same day, members brought him a petition, and he signed it after answering a few questions.
“It was the best experience of my life,” Brother Jose said, “Never in my life did I have friends until I became a part of the family of Freemasons. I’m the oldest of my brother and sister. When people ask me how many brothers I have, I say thousands. I know wherever I go in the world, there are Masons there, too.”
Soon after joining, Brother Jose wanted to find the Shriner who originally gave him a petition. After some research, he learned that Brother David Mead was residing in a nursing home. He paid him a visit.
“I was nervous because it had been years since I saw him,” he said. “I walked up and said ‘Hey Brother. Long time, no see!’ He smiled and said ‘How’s your daughter?’ I said ‘You remember me?’ He laughed and said, ‘Yes, of course. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember things, but I remember you.’”
Brother Jose shared his Masonic experiences with Brother David, including how he received the 32nd degree in the Scottish Rite. He continues to visit with Brother David often, and he enjoys visiting other Lodge members who reside in nursing homes and paying his respects to Brethren who have passed away, including those who belonged to other Lodges.
The generosity of his Lodge Brothers never ceases to amaze him.
Last year, Brother Jose’s car broke down, and he didn’t know how he would get Chloe to her doctors’ appointments. She sees 13 doctors and specialists from Meadville to Erie to Pittsburgh. He took on several side jobs and sold some of his things, but still just couldn’t afford the repairs. He went to one of the Brothers in his Lodge, and despite his embarrassment, shared his situation. At the next Lodge meeting, his fellow Brothers agreed to assist him.
“I was so moved, I was in tears. I didn’t expect anything from joining but friendship and Brotherly love, which I have felt since day one,” he said.
“And I still feel that love. They are such good men. I finally have a sense of belonging and what true friendship is. I told them I am thankful, but I don’t
think they truly realize how thankful I am. They made a big impact on me, and I will always be grateful for them coming into my life.”