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Mason for life
Being community-minded almost is a way of life for 96-year-old Harold Pomeroy.
Since joining the Freemasons — a fraternal international organization — at age 21, Pomeroy has been a Mason longer than a Rotarian, husband, father, Army man, and handy man.
Sequim Masonic Lodge plans to honor Pomeroy this May for serving 75 years in the group.
A few months way from the honor, Pomeroy — in a bright green Hawaiian shirt with a pattern of elephants — said he’s in good health and spirits.
“I’m very, very fortunate,” Pomeroy said, before knocking on his wooden coffee table. “Especially at 96 years old. I’m going to be 100 years old in four more years.”
Pomeroy said the Masons means a lot to him.
“They look after each other,” he said. “It does a lot of good for a lot of people and I think the world of it.”
He attributes his dedication to the Masons from his father and grandfather’s Masonic Lodge in Gays Mills, Wis. When Pomeroy was 8, his father fell ill with bone cancer and later died from it at 39. His father’s illness made it difficult for his mother, who was caring for four children with Pomeroy the second oldest.
“Every night one of the Masons would sit all night with him so that my mother could get some rest from raising her four kids,” Pomeroy said. “That made a great impression on me. So I became a Mason when I was 21.”
He rose to prominence in the lodge and was elected senior warden, which is next to the head master’s position, at a Saturday night dinner meeting. However, the next day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, which led Pomeroy to enlist in the Army Air Corps.
In the Army
He spent four years in the Army and traveled the globe. Pomeroy’s first intention was to become a pilot but at 27, he was one year too old by the Army’s standards.
“So I became a pencil-pushing, ground-pounding, $21 a month private,” he said.
After a year, he became eligible for officer training in Texas but grew to hate the area and was sent to Arabia as an air traffic officer. Pomeroy scheduled planes that flew across Africa, India and Burma.
“I was there six months. It was a miserable place to be. It was 100 degrees at midnight,” he said.
His next stint was in Algiers, North Africa, for two years where he said he’d be given the most memorable experience of his life.
In January 1945, Pomeroy received a puzzling telegram to report to Casablanca, Morocco, and to bring winter flying gear.
“I hadn’t been a pilot or crew member, so I thought they made a mistake,” he said.
In Casablanca, the Army’s commanding general of North Africa informed him that he and 20 other soldiers were to manage aircraft at an airfield 40 miles from Yalta, Russia, for a meeting of the Big Three — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Secretary Joseph Stalin.
The meeting served as strategy session for managing war-torn Europe after World War II was to end. Pomeroy said he saw Churchill and Roosevelt at the airfield before they left.
“We didn’t know at the time that (Roosevelt) was completely crippled,” Pomeroy said. “He had four big bodyguards and was sitting up in a seat that they built up for him. He was so weak from exhaustion that he was gasping for air. We were so shocked. We had no idea he was about dead. They placed him in a seat and they hand cranked him up into the plane and he waved to us. It was quite a memorable experience.”
During his stay, Pomeroy lived for a month in an abandoned tuberculosis sanitarium.
After World War II ended, Pomeroy was offered a trip to visit Johannesburg, South Africa, with a friend but his preference was to go home first. Pomeroy learned that the plane crashed in the jungle and never was found.
“Maybe the Lord is sending me a message. I’m not going to fly home. I’ll go home in a boat,” Pomeroy said.
He spent 17 days on an empty ship on his way to New Jersey. Once home to Gays Mills, he discovered his grandfather had sold the Fortney Hardware Company, where he had worked since age 12. Pomeroy’s grandfather had a house in Pasadena, Calif., and the two traveled west to visit. Pomeroy stayed put. He found a job in the area and eventually settled in Santa Ana,
Calif., for 34 years as a hardware salesman, met his wife, Noel, married her in 1951, and had three children before moving to Sequim.
Noel, an avid gardener, wanted to retire on a farm, Pomeroy said, but Orange County real estate was too expensive. They read Sequim was the ideal place to retire, so they figured they’d try it out while on a trip to Victoria, British Columbia.
“It rained from Tillamook, Ore., to Port Angeles,” Pomeroy said. “We had already made reservations in Sequim and when we woke up in the morning, they were running their sprinklers. My wife said this was the place to be.”
That was in 1980.
The couple bought a house at the end of Third Avenue and raised a lot of vegetables. Pomeroy became involved in Rotary Club of Sequim and the Sequim Masonic Lodge.
He worked part-time at Thomas Building Center for seven years. He now attends Sequim Community Church and lives in Fifth Avenue Retirement Center. His wife died three years ago.
“I can’t imagine a better place to be,” he said.
The Masons plan to honor Pomeroy at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at the Sequim Masonic Lodge, 700 S. Fifth Ave.
Jerry Carlson, past president of the Rotary Club of Sequim, said he’s known Pomeroy for 30 years.
“As a person, he is always thinking what other people might feel,” Carlson said. “Whenever there is a project, Harold is always the first one selling tickets or working to accomplish the end result.”
One of the Rotary’s top projects is the Annual Duck Derby in Port Angeles and Pomeroy is a top seller of ducks for the race. He also helps with the annual Salmon Bake at Carrie Blake Park.
“He’s a very community-minded person and his limitations don’t seem to bother him,” Carlson said. “He wants to be of value to the club and the community.”
Phil Castell, a member of Sequim Masonic Lodge, has known Pomeroy for 10 years and said he is a consummate giver and gentleman.
“He is always there supporting every organization he can,” Castell said. “Whenever there is something needed, He is always there in spirit and body.”
Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.