If you were ever told to ‘be nice’ to so-and-so, then the idea behind the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is not hard to grasp. Their motto to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan” was developed in England at a time – some say 1700s, some say earlier – when strict pecking orders meant you didn’t mingle with those outside your social class or denomination. Throw in a nasty prolonged civil war when someone had the bright idea to help others outside their circle.
Weird? Maybe. Definitely considered odd in its day. Think of how the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and church-based nursing homes have opened their memberships.
The Odd Fellowship began in the US and Canada in 1819 and now has fraternities in 26 countries*. What – fraternities? They define themselves as “The Three Link Fraternity” with a worldwide “Three Link Emblem” of Friendship, Love and Truth. Men are the Odd Fellows and women are the Rebekahs.
Glenn Keenan and Samantha Shartran explained that their name is Teoronto Lodge #8, which was founded in 1842, and they have met in the former firehouse at 357 Gregory Street since 1951. As for secret rituals, Glenn said everything’s on the web now, so like the Masons, curious people can read about their ceremonies online.
There are two divisions, one is guided by Friendship, Love and Truth. The other military members are guided by Faith, Hope and Charity. The men meet twice a month, as do the women’s group which started in 1925. The youth group for girls 8-18 has also met twice a month since 1934.
Their main fund-raising activity is an annual $15,000 John C. Sable Heart Fund for cardiology research which was started in 1947. They have two annual floats in the Memorial Day parade and lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.
Since many of the members are seniors, it follows that the IOOF has nursing and rehab homes in the Bronx and Lockport. (Who knew?) Eighty-percent of local members are over 80 and are still active!
Most IOOF members are average Joe or plain Jane types, but famous ones include Winston Churchill, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Chaplin, Ulysses Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Red Skelton, Burl Ives, Eleanor Roosevelt and Georgia Dwelle, the first female African-American Physician.
This is straight from the Facebook site about “A painting of Abraham Lincoln showing the three links emblem. Some people say that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was initiated an Odd Fellow when he was still a young surveyor in Illinois. It was very common for people to join the Odd Fellows in the past because it is not just a fraternity that offers social networking but also serves as people’s social safety net (insurance) in times of sickness, unemployment or death. However,we Odd Fellows are not very good in keeping records of notable members.”
*Australia, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA.