From the presentation during the Elks Memorial Service December 6, 2009 by Terry Gicking, Exalted Ruler Elks Lodge 2477
My theme this year is “Memories from the past, to rebuild our future”! I know that living in the past keeps you from moving forward, but I thought that reliving the “memories of my past in this wonderful Lodge” could help us as a lodge, mend some broken friendships. Sometimes it takes the death of a loved one for us to stop and realize that our time upon the stage of life is but brief.
Along with honoring the memories of those brothers we lost during the past year, and with the help of a dear old friend and Brother Elk, we put together a short synopsis of some of the members of our lodge who have helped shape OUR lodge into what was once known as the Friendliest Lodge in Elkdom.
First, I wish to acknowledge the great efforts during the past year of Brother David Nacarratto, PER & our current LODGE SECRETARY, for his monthly contributions to our newsletter recalling the history of our Order. The timeline history is a great trip down memory lane!
Brother Harry Brockwell once experienced being in another lodge when the Vacant Chair was announced for a Brother of 41 years.
Astonishingly, no one at that lodge meeting offered any comments about that 41 year member.
The impact of that incident, along with some short Eulogies of some of our own members, caused an immediate reaction suggesting we review the personas of some who had enormous history when they came into our fold!
This collection of outstanding brothers is only the tip of the iceberg and acknowledging them in this fashion will bring more meaning to our Eleven o’clock toast-
“TO OUR ABSENT MEMBERS”
Now tomorrow commemorates the 68th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “December 7, 1941 – a date that will live in infamy!” It helped propel the United States into war with Japan, and four days later into war with Germany & Italy, the war we now know as World War II.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is distinctively American, and we, as Elks shall never forget those who fought so hard during those times for our freedom!
Some of the Men we will acknowledge today who were outstanding PAST Elks in this lodge, – were also veterans of that conflict.
Here are just a few of those courageous men….
JOHN LOTZ – General Contractor who help build the military airport and runways at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, following the invasion in the Aleutian Islands, thus protecting the Alaskan mainland from further invasion during WW II.
HENRY VAN NEST—A quiet gentleman who during WW II, participated in every US Marine Corps invasion in the South Pacific, rose to the rank of TEC sergeant, an accomplishment of only a few Marines in that era. A heavily decorated patriot who was with us in this lodge for a number of years before passing.
WILLIAM “BILL” WHITNEY—Another quiet patriotic US Marine who earned battlefield commission and returned to his life’s work following the war—a movie director. Bill was the youngest movie director in history, completing his first film at age 17.
Bill’s principal work was in “B” westerns and is still celebrated today in Europe where an annual film festival honoring his body of work is conducted!
Bill, and his wife Bev, always had some great stories.
DONALD “DON” DICKEY – A Marine who was captured twice and held as a POW each time. He escaped his first incarceration!
He worked at the Danielson Ranch in Newbury Park as the ranch manager, and he was instrumental in having our lodges’ annual picnic at the ranch on Labor Day weekend.
What a great site for a picnic. One lane winding road down a steep incline, add Elks and some spirits, and we usually stayed the whole weekend. We are actually going to have one of our Boy Scouts whose Eagle Scout project during this past year was to rebuild the fire pit we used on the ranch. He’s going to show us a video of his project during DDGER Greg’s Homecoming on Wed.
Anyway, when Don needed to move away to a drier, hot climate in the desert, he still kept his membership here, visited often!
JACK MACAULEY – A US Navy submariner who, like many others “above the surface”, made his contributions towards the betterment of life for our nation’s freedoms. He served in both theaters of WW II – Atlantic & Pacific. He was fond of saying, “I’m probably the most traveled Vet in town, but I never saw a damned thing”. He was a good poker player also!
Each of these gentlemen earned their personal pride and knowingly were celebrated but refrained from ever openly suggesting it. They contributed to the ongoing welfare of our lodge and readily made themselves available to support the functions of our lodge. It was this behavior that brought acclaim to our lodge being recognized, by all other Elks Lodges in and around our district, as the Lodge to visit!
As I stated earlier, these four men are just the tip of the iceberg. These are just four of the little known men who were a big part of the war, but also had a role in shaping our lodge.
There are others who had a hand in contributing to our efforts, and while they might have served our country in one form or another, their attributes in their Professions were even greater!
FREDERICK “MONTY” DELLINGER
Monty came to us through his work as a design engineer for the IBM Government contracts division. His prior work within that company’s N.A.S.A. operations was designing and overseeing the installation of the entire “interstellar communications system” in Pasadena, TX – famously called “HOUSTON CONTROL”, which was repeatedly heard over everyone’s television sets, worldwide.
His work was instrumental for mankind back here on earth, in seeing, hearing, and virtually touching the universe!
The world of space, our government, and his employer all knew the values he brought to the table, and we should too!
We were fortunate to have a man of Monty’s quality and history walk among us. He was also responsible for fixing many of our members TV’s. He was, in a sense, our first “nerd”. He was a big man with a big heart.
THOMAS “TOMMY” THOMPSON
Award winning writer, Television Producer, Sailor, and once a bawdy house Piano Player.
Of all the celebrated personalities coming through our Lodge, Tommy was the most frequent participant. He was a regular attendee at our Wednesday night meetings, and almost always had to defend a brother for being fined for different infractions. As he always did, he would start off by letting us know that whatever it was that this brother did, he was doing it for the love of his lodge. He would then go on a 5 minute dissertation about nothing that had to do with the fine, then he would stop and ask what the charges were again, where upon he would proceed to let Justice know that the fines should be doubled!
His 5 minute stories were hilarious, and we never heard the same one twice. The net result, he was an incredibly loved person who brought distinction to our Lodge.
He was a Winner of the Levi Strauss Western Writer’s Award, similar to such luminaries as John Ford, Louis La’Mour, and the “Duke”, John Wayne.
He wrote or produced 37 episodes of BONANZA, the popular TV show in the Sixties. He also wrote 20 novels, and used identities of members of this lodge as characters in his last novel: “Outlaw Valley”. For many in our lodge, remembering Tommy, and his lovely wife June, will always bring a quick smile.
DR ROBERT “BOB” MACFARLANE
Before coming to us, and serving as a Trustee, including Chairman of the Board, and Master of Ceremony for many events, Bob was an electronics engineer with specialties in then current technology for military armament.
But we all knew him as a local Chiropractor, one whom many of us placed our trust in him to be adjusted when needed.
He delivered himself with more than magic hands for adjustment, he extended himself to help any lodge member see their way clear of any misadventure. Never asking for the associated publicity, he did it because he sincerely wanted to help when he could.
A well educated gentleman who could have lived in the luxuries of being a leader in an industry that demanded his skills, he came to being a Dr. because he wanted to help others. We all benefitted greatly by his presence. Dr Bob’s gregarious nature, coupled with his ability to tell fascinating stories made him a virtual legend in our lodge.
JOHN “R” EVANS
An incredible man who served as OUR Lodge’s Officer at Large for 10 continuous years. While he never held an elected officers position, he knew every speaking part for every officer position, including the E.R. part. He was the word prompter for every Initiation, even if he was in it.
John R was of Welch-Mexican heritage and was born on the border of Arizona at Nogales. He could recall his mother having to push he and his brother to the floor as a firefight broke out with gunfire coming thru their families Cantina. The shooting parties were American General “Blackjack” Pershing’s forces chasing the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa back into Mexico.
And just like Tommy Thompson and Bob MacFarlane, he too was an extraordinary story teller and actually did keep members entertained for hours.
A. JOHN NICHOLS, PER
P.E.R. Nichols was selected for this roster to provide definition to some profound diversity in our Lodge’s background. “A John”, prior to coming to the Conejo Valley had been a flautist with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra for many years.
Because of his level of exposure to classical music, he introduced a style that was different to the cowboy style of our Lodge. He was a real gentleman who possessed the qualities needed to represent our Lodge with an honorable style.
Generally regarded as a quiet person, he effectively led with dignity and a strong mindset about good management practices.
BOB CISSELL 2005
Bob was a fifty year Elk who was installed in Lancaster, CA. He provided coffee services for virtually all of the early astronauts while they were training at Edwards AFB. In addition to being a Union Carpenter, past owner of the Lawyers bar, and our Lodge bar manager for many years, he was also my Boss when I was a bartender here!
He had lots of stories and he counted Colonel Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier, among his life long friends.
GENE “PAPPY” DYKE 1997
Pappy was a Conejo Valley pioneer who was responsible for having developed many water systems in the Conejo Valley, and was an employer for many Elks still in our midst today. His stern demands of some of our people is what contributed to their sticking it out thru the development days here!
JACK MALONE 2006
Former IRS attorney, and administrative Judge. Was a lodge trustee for many years and showed his love for the Lodge and what we do for Charity by making sure we always had enough food, clothing, toys or money to help out at Christmas Basket time. Was well loved by all members here. OK, some more than others!
RICHARD “DICK” MCNEIL “BUDA” 2006
Everyone has a Dick McNeil story. He was a charter member of our lodge, and was part of the Conejo Valley’s version of the “Rat Pack”. In his business of street paving, and with his reputation throughout Ventura County, it was widely known that if Dick McNeil was to be involved, the Thousand Oaks Elks Lodge would stand to benefit. He proudly carried the image of this Lodge throughout his life!
FLOYD “FROSTY” MILLER
Frosty was U.S. Western Region manager for Lloyds of London Insurance Company. He located and secured this lodge property for our Lodge. Although stricken with a debilitating physical condition, he always found time and energy to contribute to the beautification of the Lodge. He named each bush or tree planted in honor of our early Exalted Rulers. He prided himself in expressing any frustrations or disappointments with namesake’s plant by cutting off their water supply.
Frosty always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye whenever you saw him. He taught me about how to face each and every day. “We always have 2 choices”, he said. “You can be miserable and depressed, or you can be positive and upbeat”. He always chose to be positive, and it always made everyone who was around him have a smile on their face!
Now while all of these aforementioned folks deserve the recognition honoring them, we do have an endless supply of truly outstanding members. Many are still with us today, and more will be recruited in the days and years to come. The impact we can share is that we have a strong history because of the quality individuals who have preceded us.
Many of you may feel that others should have been selected to be highlighted, and while that could be true, time constraints dictate we make this effort solid, but brief.
It is my honor to practice some nepotism, in reverse, by adding My Father to this roster because he, as the Lodge Inner Guard for many years, instilled in me the desire and the drive to want to someday be an Officer, and possibly become the Exalted Ruler. He is the one person who repeatedly proved to me this is “THE LODGE” where to participate. Through the years, many of his friends have guided, chastised, encouraged, and even goaded me into being the best I can be for the entire membership. I appreciate all of the help extended and wish to thank all of You!
MY FATHER WAS GEORGE GICKING:
A tall and slender man, with a quiet and gentle reserve, who always saw the good in other people. He was a retired auto mechanic for Chrysler, in Santa Monica, where he commuted from 1958 till his retirement in 1974. He was a personal mechanic for a lot of Movie Stars, quite frequently bringing home their cars for a test drive before he worked on them the next day. Heck, he would trade cars with the ones who lived in the Palisades or Malibu. His ‘55 Desoto (affectionately know in our family as the tank!) for their brand new Chrysler or Imperial. After his retirement, he was swooned into joining the Moose Lodge and then he finally joined Our Elks Lodge.
While he wasn’t a charter member of our lodge, he pretty much knew everyone who was. But that was the kind of guy he was. He knew everybody. From the Lawyers bar to Rizzos to Dupars to the Redwood Lodge to the Plush Oak, my Father spent some time in each one, along with some of the others in between. He loved hanging out with people. And as much as I would love to tell stories of his adventures, it’s his story of his love for this Lodge that I will share.
He loved being the Inner Guard. It kept him involved just enough to where he could have fun and be a part of the team. While he never scored well at Ritual, he took the part serious. The ritual part! The rest of the time he would find ways to pull off practical jokes or create a little chaos during the meetings.
He also loved being the head cashier for the BBQ team. He would be in charge of securing the parking for the BBQ wagon at the corner of Hillcrest & Moorpark when ever we cooked there. Then he would get the banks set up for the cashiers, help oversee them, then leave with the big bills to secure the bar tab back at the Lodge.
He loved bowling with the Elks on Thursday nights. We even had a family team for a few years. My brother, my sister, me, my ex wife #2 and my Dad. Man did he have fun with that.
When my Mother passed away, the outpouring of love and respect that this lodge showed her, also showed my Father he had made the right choice in choosing Lodges. He was so blown away by the hundreds of people who showed up for her funeral and the support he received afterwards was incredible. He never forgot that!
The lodge even created a daytime bartending position for him to help keep him busy. Then when he went into the Hospital for prostate problems, he came out and all he could drink was water or cranberry juice. Water was boring, So he would bring in his own juice, then some of the other members started drinking their drinks with his cranberry juice, so then the bar started getting it for them. I think he started a trend!
As I stated earlier, I could go on with stories about him, but I think I need to state my reason for all of this. and Yes, there is a reason!
Before my Father passed away, I was able to sit down with him and really talk to him about what the Elks meant to him. Our lodge and the whole organization. And he said to me, “everyone needs to feel good about helping others, and although some give more than others, it doesn’t make them any better than those who give a little. It just means you will feel that much better inside. And the Elks give you that chance to be a better person. And have fun doing it!”
That is why I decided to become Exalted Ruler. I love this Lodge for what it did for my Mother & Father, and for how it’s made me a better person!
And just think, if my Father had not sponsored me into this wonderful Organization, I would not have met most of these aforementioned Elks, nor would I have met most of You!
In closing, let me say to everyone, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
Today we strive to provide all members an atmosphere wherein they can express their sense of pride.
In remembrance of our Members who have passed to realms on high, I would like to see each member openly suggesting this pride to others as they meet new people.