The legacy of Freemasonry can be traced back to our country’s founding fathers and beyond, with our Masonic traditions and values remaining constant throughout history. As members of this fraternity, we have a special bond not only with our contemporary Brothers, but with the long line of Masons who paved the way for us today. Many of us also enjoy a more personal connection to the generations of Masons who came before us in our own families.
We recently spoke with Ill. Douglas R. Policastro, 33°, Deputy for New Jersey, about the Masonic legacy that spans four generations of his family. For Bro. Policastro, joining Freemasonry meant building on a long family tradition and strengthening his connection to the other men of his lineage. Watch the video interview and read the full Q&A below to hear more of Bro. Policastro’s story.
When did you become a Mason?
I became a Master Mason on November 3, 1978.
What Lodge do you belong to? Do the other Masons in your family belong to the same Lodge?
I belong to Ocean Lodge #89. Yes, my grandfather, father, myself, and both of my twin sons all belong to Ocean Lodge #89. My father-in-law, who was also a Mason, belonged to a Lodge in Indiana.
Ill. Douglas R. Policastro, 33°, Deputy for New Jersey and Active Member of the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction
Why did you decide to become a Mason?
I always knew that my father, as well as a number of his friends, attended Lodge, but I really didn't know that much about it. I attended my grandfather’s funeral the Saturday morning prior to Christmas in 1973, and I was impressed with the number of men in attendance, later finding out that they were all members of his Lodge.
I knew that I wanted to join, but I was still in college, so I decided to wait before talking to my father about it. My grandfather never spoke to me about the Masons because I was too young to join when he passed. I always felt that my father wanted me to join, but he never pressured me.
On December 25, 1975, I wrote my father the following letter, which my father kept and gave back to me before he passed:
"Dad, I'm not sure if this is more of a Christmas gift for me or you, but recently I have been considering it quite a bit. Maybe because of Pop Pop and maybe because of you, but regardless, if it is good enough for the both of you, then it's good enough for me. I'd like to be a Mason. Love, Doug"
Bro. Policastro’s grandfather, Right Worshipful F. Ralph Shibla, District Deputy Grand Master of the 17th Masonic District in New Jersey
How has your family’s Masonic legacy impacted your experience as a Freemason?
I knew that my grandfather was the first District Deputy Grand Master from our Lodge, as well as the Personal Secretary to one of our Grand Masters, with aspirations to one day become Grand Master himself. His dream died when my grandmother became ill, and he was not able to continue because he stayed at home to take care of her. My father was content being a strong supporter of the Lodge but never considered being an officer.
I attended Lodge with my father one night when they were having a degree, and I told him I thought I could memorize the lecture that I just heard. He told me that I should become an officer, so I did. I began to get deeply involved, and soon I became Master of my Lodge (twice), Grand Chaplain, District Deputy Grand Master, and Grand Orator. Finally, I decided to do what my grandfather wasn't able to do, and that was to become Grand Master, something that I knew he and my father would both be proud of.
In 2006, Bro. Policastro was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey.
What was it like for you to watch your sons discover Freemasonry?
My sons always knew that I was involved in Masonry, as I became Master of my Lodge 17 days before they were born. I took them to many Masonic events with me, so they were aware of what I was doing.
I was Grand Master when they turned 21 (at the time, that was the age when they could become Masons). I had talked to them a little bit about joining, letting them know that both of their grandfathers and a great-grandfather were all Masons, and that we all would be proud to have them join us. I had a trip planned to visit the New Jersey Masons in Florida, so I told my sons that I would leave both of them a petition on the kitchen table, and if they wanted to join, all they had to do was sign it. If they did, I would start the ball rolling for them. If they chose not to sign it, I would not bring the topic up again. When I returned from Florida, both petitions were signed.
How has Freemasonry shaped the way that you interact with your family?
I believe that because of Freemasonry, my family understands why we go out of our way to help others in need, not only financially, but also emotionally and physically. Family always comes first, and there is a lot of respect and love between us.
Policastro family photo at the Masonic Home of New Jersey, taken at the Masonic church service prior to the Grand Master’s Reception. From left to right: Franklin W. Policastro, Betty Ann Policastro, Douglas R. Policastro, Patricia Ann Policastro, Christopher D. Policastro, Stephen D. Policastro
Are there any Masonic traditions that are especially meaningful for you and your family?
When I first became a Mason, I would attend Lodge with my father, and I enjoyed sitting with him and his friends. Once my sons were old enough, I would take them to Lodge with me to help paint the building and to help at breakfasts and picnics. Now, both of my sons have very young children and are involved in their family and jobs, but hopefully, in the future, we will all be able to attend Lodge together again.
Are there any powerful Masonry-related memories that your family has shared with you?
When I joined, I was surprised by the number of friends that both my grandfather and father had who were Masons and that I was now able to call them Brothers. Many of the elderly men knew my grandfather and spoke highly of him, which made me proud.
There weren't too many memories shared with me, but there is one that I will never forget: I was Grand Master when my sons joined, and I was able to raise both of them. My father came up from Florida to assist me and my Grand Staff participated in the degree. It was a day that I will never forget!
On July 8, 2006, Bro. Policastro and his father raised his twin sons in Ocean Lodge #89. Left to right: Brother Christopher D. Policastro; Distinguished Brother Franklin W. Policastro; Most Worshipful Douglas R. Policastro, Grand Master; Brother Stephen D. Policastro
Have the other Masons in your family joined the Scottish Rite? If so, what role has the Scottish Rite played in your family’s Masonic journey?
I actually have a Scottish Rite certificate from my great-grandfather (my grandmother’s father), but I don't know anything about his Masonic history. My grandfather never joined the Scottish Rite, and to date, my sons have not either, but my father did. My father signed petitions for a number of Masons to join the Scottish Rite. He never took an active role, but said he would like me to join.
I feel that by joining Scottish Rite, I have come full circle in my Masonic journey. I have been involved in Scottish Rite for over 25 years, and now it is my number one priority.
Do you have any advice for Masons who are interested in getting their families involved in the Masonic community?
Masonry can truly be a family affair; it has something to offer for everybody. For the men, there is Freemasonry and a number of Masonic appendant bodies, such as Scottish Rite, York Rite, and the Shrine. For the women, there is the Eastern Star and the Amaranth; men can also attend meetings with them. For the boys, there is DeMolay, and for the girls, there is Rainbow Girls and Job’s Daughters. At the youth programs, both men and women are there as advisors while the boys and girls plan and run their own programs. Many of the youth programs involve each other for social and charitable events. It is true interaction for the entire family.