A Lifelong Connection Through the Scottish Rite

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Dad, Mom, me, Mona, Sid in 1990 at my PhD ceremony

Fariba Houman tells her story about how she developed a close relationship with Brother Sidney Baxter, 33° and his wife Mona Baxter during a time when she needed support and comfort in a new place. Their selflessness, love, and care guided Fariba through many years; a lifelong connection started through Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite.

Mom & Dad”. This is how Mona and Sid(ney) Baxter always signed their cards to me whenever there was an important event or holiday.

It was late August 1979 when I landed at Logan Airport, not yet understanding the consequences for Iranians, starting with the hostage crisis that continues today. I was born and raised in Tehran and later went to study in Switzerland and France for high school. With a baccalaureate in hand, I moved to Boston at age 19 to learn English and explore my options. At the time, the only other logical choice was to try and get into medical school in France, which did not interest me. A friend of my father had suggested Boston. As a historic city on the East Coast closest to Europe, it seemed like the best choice for me, so I applied to Boston University. It was a time where you could feel welcome anywhere and I felt like a citizen of the world.

My parents, who knew the Baxters through Freemasonry, contacted them to say I would attend BU. They met me at the airport and welcomed me to their apartment in Stoneham, MA. My father met the Baxters through their connection and bond with Freemasonry. My uncle was the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite in Iran, and my father was the Grand Orator. Mona’s father was also a past Sovereign Grand Commander in Bogota.

We became instant friends.

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I can still remember the soft, strawberry-print sheets in the Baxter’s guest room on that first day, and the exquisite taste of the Arroz con Pollo that Mona had made for my arrival. I often think back to that first meal, where Mona explained the difference between bijol and saffron, the first of a continuous cooking conversation we have had over the years.

In the first few days of living in the U.S., Mona helped me shop for dorm items and my move-in. She took me to these large suburban shops that seemed so well-stocked and had way too many choices!

The first few months of school, I was totally lost and felt quite homesick. I was not at ease with my new surroundings (an electric blue cement-walled dorm room), the ever-changing New England weather and the abrupt pace of college life. During this rough start, Mona and Sidney were there for me and would invite me to stay with them for all holidays. Sidney would pick me up and drive me to their house (via short-cuts that only he knew).

To this day, Thanksgiving remains one of my favorite holidays because of my memories from this time with the Baxters. The table would be formally set with nice linen, china, and silver. Sidney would make the dressing for the salad with a little touch of paprika. We would have olives and celery sticks before the traditional turkey dinner. Everything was homemade, including the most delicious string beans and squash from Wilson Farms in Lexington, MA. After dinner, Sidney would make coffee and we would sit around the TV.

Mona and Sidney were my family, especially during the nine years that I could not travel due to sanctions imposed on Iranians. These genuinely good people with a high level of integrity, unconditional love and kindness caused the years to fly by quickly. The Baxters became my friends and mentors. Mona would check on me like she was my mother. I recall her peeking through my purse to make sure I was not hiding a pack of cigarettes, and visiting my first apartment to ensure that my husband to-be was not living there before we got married! Sidney gave permission for my hand-in-marriage (see photo) and they were both there at the hospital when my children were born.

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“In a world of selfish greed, of nations struggling with nations and of class warring with class, Freemasonry, both by precept and in practice, reminds us that there is a better way, a way of friendship and love and peace.” ~ Joseph Earl Perry. The Masonic Way of Living. Northern Light. June 1971

Mona passed away from tuberculosis in 2003. After her death, Sidney would still come visit and have dinner with my family. He would always drink real coffee, even after dinner. Sidney passed away peacefully in 2010. I miss Mona’s sense of humor, her engaged and interested eyes, her energy and hope. I miss Sidney’s goodness, tranquility, peaceful attitude, and his knowledge of current events and infinite wisdom.

I am forever grateful for the serendipitous connection that the Scottish Rite provided me and the everlasting bond I developed with the Baxters.

Fariba received her PhD in molecular biology and now works at Boston Children’s Hospital in research compliance. She currently lives in Cambridge with her second husband Bruce. She welcomes any news of Sidney and Mona’s family. Please email her at f.houman@verizon.net.

Faribra’s connection with the Baxters was fostered through the Scottish Rite, with an emphasis on the organization’s core values to do good, act with integrity, and service the community and those in need. If you have a similar story, we would love to hear from you at SRNMJ@cerconebrown.com


Illustrious Sidney Baxter, 33°
1921-2010

Ill. Sidney Baxter, 33°, worked for the Scottish Rite, NMJ for 47 years serving under the administration of six Grand Commanders. He served as an Active Member of the Supreme Council for 22 years, and when he retired from that position was renamed an Active Emeritus. His faithful and dedicated service to the Supreme Council was recognized when he became the first recipient of the Medal of Honor presented by the Northern Jurisdiction.

Two areas that have been particularly close to Brother Baxter’s heart were international relations and the Scottish Rite, NMJ charities. He was known throughout the Scottish Rite world for his deep understanding of foreign Supreme Councils. Brother Baxter edited the third and fourth editions of A Register of Supreme Councils, Active and Extinct, a project originated by the late George Draffen, 33°, Lt. Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for Scotland. He also edited the International Bulletin during the 1970s.

Brother Baxter’s wife, Mona, who passed away in 2003, is the daughter of the late Abraham Mora, 33°, a Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for Columbia.