This article is from the Harashim quarterly newsletter of the Australian & New Zealand Masonic Research Council pages 6, 7 and 9 ISSN 1328-2735 Issue 15 July 2000 P.O. Box 332, Williamstown, Victoria 3016, Australia.
The formation of the Australian Masonic Research Council (now the Australian and New Zealand Masonic Research Council) and the establishment of the biennial Kellerman Lectures provide a rare opportunity for researchers to present papers of more than local interest, and of greater than usual length, to their peers from further a field. The conferences at which these lectures are presented also provide an opportunity to meet and get to know the Masonic students and scholars of neighboring jurisdictions, thus bringing together those who must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
To date there have been 28 Kellerman Lecturers, from eight jurisdictions, over a period often years. Sadly, four of the 28 aie no longer with us, except in the work they have bequeathed, and the memories of them which we share. With the death of Harry Kellerman, in whose honor the lectures are named, it is appropriate that Harashim record a tribute to all four of our deceased brethren, Brian Palmer (Qid), Arthur Astin (NSW), Ron Cook (Vic) and Harry himself.
Within the same time-frame, two internationally known American Masonic educators have died: Allen Roberts and Preston Burner. Wallace McLeod’s tribute to Allen Roberts was published in issue 3 of Harashim, July 1997. Preston Burner, not so widely known but nevertheless influential beyond the shores of North America, died only a few months ago, and Harashim takes this opportunity to pay tribute to him.
In the 1980s, Bro Burner was the first to establish a Masonic bulletin board service (BBS), predecessor of the Internet websites we know today. The BBS system worked on a one-to-one basis. The system operator (Sysop) provided a computer with a database of files that could be accessed by others, via modems and the telephone service, without the intermediate stages of the Internet system; many of today’s facilities were absent, and the telephone connection was direct and thus expensive for all but local calls. There was no email facility, but callers could leave a message on the ‘board’, as well as downloading files.
Much of this material from Bro Burner’s BBS, Hiram’s Oasis, found its way to Australia more cheaply than via trans-pacific telephone calls—on computer disks, by mail—and some was published by the South Australian Lodge of Research in its newsletter, Gleanings.
Over the years, Bro Burner established a collection of Masonic material so large that, even today, it could take a whole day to download. With the advent of the Internet, the files were transferred to the website http://www.kena.org/hirams
Preston and his wife, Freda
photo via William Bautnbach
Preston Eugene Burner was a unique man and a very special Mason. If anything, Worshipful Brother Preston was a ‘Poster Boy’ for all the good things Freemasonry stands for. He possessed a contagious enthusiasm and zeal for Masonry that impacted everyone he came in contact with. He developed a unique combination of family, the man, religion and Masonry, and strived to influence each to better the others. Preston was never afraid to ask why, challenge what he felt was wrong, and find a way to do the right thing—even if he had to leave the beaten path. Preston spent an enormous amount of time researching the meaning of Masonry and religion in search of ties that might exist—always sharing his findings. I loved listening to stories from the many trips Preston and Freda took in their RV, exploring this great country and making friends wherever they went. I always enjoyed listening to Preston talk about the lodges he visited and sharing the way Brothers did things in other jurisdictions so that we could try to use them to make our Masonry better. I thank him for teaching me to leave the sanctity and comfort of our lodge and venture out to experience other forms and aspects of Masonry. Preston never ceased to amaze me with how much he knew about this area and about Masonry in Northern Virginia and DC. I remember sitting in a lodge in Takoma Park; Preston said, ‘You know, part of this lodge is in DC and part is Maryland. The Master is sitting in Maryland the rest of us are in DC’, and with a great deal of pride he added that this was Dad’s old lodge.
I wanted to take the time to tell you about a few of Preston’s Masonic accomplishments. He was a very proud Senior DeMolay. He was the Tiler Emeritus of A Douglas Smith Lodge of Research (Virginia) and a charter member of General George C Marshal Lodge in DC. He was presented several awards by the Philalethes society, a group in which he was very active. These included the Order of the Blue Forget-Me-Not for notable writers and educators, and recently he received an Award of Merit — the highest award they give and is presented to only four people internationally each year. He was the founder of Hiram’s Oasis, the first
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international Masonic electronic bulletin board, launching international Masonic relations into the 21st century. Hiram’s Oasis prompted many men to ask the right question and join Freemasonry. Preston was also the founder of the Kena Computer Club, an active organization in Kena Temple. Another of Preston’s accomplishments and one I think he felt was among the greatest, was that of Past Master of Concord Lodge. Concord is defined as a state of harmony and peaceful relationships, and Preston contributed a lot to formulating just that attitude and environment in the lodge. I heard Preston say so many times how much he loved our little lodge and how lucky we were that it was just the way it was.
Preston’s presentation of the ritual was unique, to say the least. It was his own mix of DC and Virginia ritual. He always said, ‘if you miss a word here or there the candidate won’t know—it’s the feeling and the meaning that count.’ There is no doubt that Preston Burner put a lot of feeling into everything he did in the lodge and for a brother Mason. When Preston conducted the degree work for a candidate, that candidate knew he had just received beautiful and important information from a man that truly cared and wanted to share the things he had found in Masonry. Worshipful Brother Preston Burner was truly a dedicated Mason and an inspiration to the rest of us. He will be greatly missed.
Richard K Thompson, PM of Concordia Lodge No 307, Virginia