Masons Show Appreciation to Brother Raj Bhalla, Donors for Renovations

Members of the Morton Masonic Lodge No. 72 in Richmond with Brother Raj Bhalla in center.

BY JAWAHAR MALHOTRA

RICHMOND: Many in the community know Dr. Raj Bhalla for his outspokenness, sharp wit, generosity and support and presence in many community activities. He is regarded as the community’s elder statesman and has guided many decisions through his clear and thoughtful purpose.

But his sphere of influence does not end there. Ever since he moved to the Houston area in 1995, Bhalla has also been involved with the Morton Masonic Lodge No. 72 in Richmond where he has devoted much time and money for the historic lodge building’s upkeep. In recognition of Brother Raj’s devoted and outstanding service to Masonic principles, in April 2015 he received the coveted Golden Trovel Award, the highest honor a Texas lodge can bestow.

In June 2017, when Bhalla was surprised but delighted when the Lodge Brethren presented him with a shadow box with a kirpan, an antique Masonic plaque, and a suitably engraved dedication and named the Masonic Lodge Hall, where regular meetings are held, as “Rajinder Bhalla Hall”.

The freemason order was first established in 1717 with the first Grand Lodge of England was formed in London. Fraternity, personal growth and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy have been its guiding lights. Stonemason guilds have transcended national boundaries and religious affiliations and though they were long seen as a shadowy organization, the root of the association has sought to better the lives of those around the local Lodges where the members gather for regular meetings.

They follow a strict code of conduct, each member, addressed as “Brother”, passing through progressive degrees of initiation from Entered Apprentice to Fellowcraft and finally Master Mason. Some very famous Americans were Masons, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and President Teddy Roosevelt.

For Dr. Rajinder Pal Singh Bhalla, this was a fascinating world, one which he had been exposed to as a young boy by his father who was a Past Grand Standard Bearer and Past Junior Regional Grand Warden in the Grand Lodge of India on Janpath Avenue in New Delhi, India. His younger brother GPS Bhalla became Master of Lodge in Madras and inspired Raj and his youngest brother Paul to join. By June 1964, Bhalla had become a Master Mason at the Northern Star Lodge No. 21 in Ferozepur Cantonment, Punjab, just miles from the Indo-Pak border.

Soon after he came to America, Bhalla joined the Paumanok-Port Washington No. 855 Lodge and stayed there from 1976 till 1993, serving as its Worshipful Master in 1982. Now a very active 88 years-old, Bhalla has been a Freemason for over 50 years.

Two weeks ago, on Saturday, February 16, the Brethren of Morton Masonic Lodge once again gathered in the large first floor hall with the storefront that opens to Morton Street in the downtown area to honor not just Bhalla for yet another act of generosity but also the other donors.

Almost 80 people – donors, friends and fellow Lodge masons – mingled downstairs over appetizers and then a buffet lunch to admire the results of their financial donation, which has allowed for the banquet hall to be renovated after the flooding it suffered two years ago. “Not only did he make the donation,” Worshipful Master Harold “Chip” Enst said in deep appreciation, “He also paid for this sumptuous lunch (catered by Bombay Brasserie)! He exemplifies what the Masonic tradition is all about.”

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