Bruce Bartlett is Master Mason of the Year

John Burchfield
Special to The Black Mountain News

Most everyone in Black Mountain knows him, and if not, they know someone who does. He has been a permanent fixture in this small sleepy little hamlet of a town for all but a couple of his 72 years.

One of seven children born to Lawrence and Alice Bartlett, Bruce Bartlett was like Opie Taylor searching for his next adventure in Mayberry. He grew up in an era of Black Mountain’s history when there was no interstate and only one traffic light in town. Like many of us who were fortunate enough to grow up in this community once known as Grey Eagle, Bruce also had a little bit of Tom Sawyer and a pinch of Sherlock Holmes in him. He was inquisitive and delightfully adventurous. He could not go anywhere without someone knowing him, and he knew everybody.

When he was about 12 years old, he got a job shining shoes at the local barber shop. When he was 14, you could find him washing dishes at the Red Rocker. Later he worked at the A&P store bagging groceries and stocking shelves. He got to see a lot of people come and go, and he could talk from sunup to sundown without missing a beat. Not surprisingly, he still can, and he has a wonderful gift when it comes to telling a story.

Like his father before him, Bruce got a job at the Beacon Blanket factory. He remained there until he was drafted into the Army in 1965. He spent the next two years working as an airframe and engine mechanic in Arizona for Uncle Sam. But like many service men, Bruce could not wait to get back to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. After his service commitment was complete, he did not hesitate to return to the only home he had ever known, Black Mountain.

Safely back at home, Bruce once again found work at Beacon. It did not take long before he ran into a former classmate of his who was also working at the plant, Miss Brenda Linens. Within a year of their courtship, Bruce and Brenda married. They had both started out in the first grade together and subsequently graduated from Owen high school in 1961. Their marriage in March 1968 resulted in two sons. They now are the proud grandparents of four granddaughters and one grandson. In just a few short years they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

On Sept. 14, along with other members, friends and guests, Bruce and Brenda attended the annual Past Master’s event at Black Mountain Masonic Lodge. During the evening the Master of the Lodge, Worshipful Brother Henry C. Hilliard, Jr., recognized Bruce for his many contributions to the lodge, his community, his country and his fellowman. Brother Hilliard presented Bruce with the 2015 Master Mason of the Year Award.

This was a huge surprise to Bruce. He thanked the lodge for the honor but advised he did not think he deserved the award or the recognition. Many of those attending were quick to let Bruce know he was very deserving and thanked him for all he had done and continued to do for so many.

Bruce’s journey in freemasonry began in the late ’70s when he first inquired about joining the Masonic Lodge. Bruce’s best friend at the time was already a member of the lodge. Bruce kept waiting for his friend to mention the lodge and asking him to join, but he never did. Bruce finally learned he had to be the one to ask to join, and once he did his Masonic travels began.

Back then the Lodge was located across from the Depot on Sutton Avenue. The lodge hall was upstairs in the old Sam Papas building of 1914. It only took Bruce just a little over five months to make it through each of the three degrees and become a Master Mason. Bruce’s interest in the lodge continued to grow.

Soon he found himself as an officer in the lodge, and in December 1984 he was elected as Master of the Lodge for 1985. Bruce has now been a Master Mason for over 37 years.

One of the principle teachings of freemasonry is service to others, and Bruce has surely dedicated his life to doing just this. Anyone who knows Bruce though will quickly tell you it was not being a freemason which prompted him to providing service to others. They will tell you he has been providing service to others all of his life.