The second Grand Secretary…
This outstanding Mason, born on May 15, 1870, at Burkittsville, Maryland, found comfort in medical services, stamp collecting, and church work, and then became a firm believer in Masonic education.
A pharmacist by profession, he served in the U.S. Health Service during the early part of the American occupation of the Philippines – first as one of the administrators in the local U.S. Quarantine Office and later as the first superintendent of the Philippine General Hospital.
It was a delight to him to show his brethren his stamp collections and to share with them his love of philately.
He dedicated himself, likewise, to church work. In 1901, he was elected elder of the Ermita Evangelical Church, the church which, together with others, would subsequently come to be Union Church.
In 1902, he was made a Master Mason at Manila Lodge No. 341. Later, he asked for a demit to become one of the founders (in fact, a charter member) of Corregidor Lodge No.386. In 1907, he was elected this lodge’s Worshipful Master. Masons can wax mature, he averred, through the study of the tenets of Masonry and through proficiency in degree work. Much later, as the Grand Lecturer, he would write:
The study side of Masonry deserves greater attention. Behind the mystic words and scenes, there lie concealed thoughts and meanings, which make for wisdom, strength and beauty in our lives. We have not accomplished as much this past year as we desired. We are possessed of a marvellous Masonic literature, but we need more systematic method to make use of it for our members.
Newton so systematically made use of Masonic literature that he would come to be the second Grand Secretary .He was so hungry for Masonic thoughts and meanings that he became:
- A Royal Arch Mason, serving as a High Priest in Luzon Chapter No.1
- Founder of the Far East Commandery, Knights Templar, as well as its Commander.
- III. Master of the Oriental Council No.1, as well as Royal and Select Master.
- Member of the Order of Anointed High Priest; of the Royal Order of Scotland; of the Order of Eastern Star; and of the Order of the Amaranth.
- Presiding officer of the Lodge of Perfection (Scottish Rite of Freemasonry), the Wise Master of Manu Chapter of Rose Croix and the Consistory.
- 33° IGH Mason.
- One of the organisers of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.
Then he was made our second Grand Master – a position he deserved, particularly because he spent forty-one of his active years in this our country – and served the Grand Lodge as such from 1914 to 1915. Thence he served as Grand Secretary until his health made it impossible for him to work actively with his Brethren.
From such a dedicated Mason came to us these words from his Annual Report as Grand Master.
It has been my desire to make our Grand Lodge the first in friendship, in fellowship, in charity, in fraternal zeal, and loyalty to Brotherman. We are all inspired with hope. We have a reason for the hope that is in us. We know the tenets of the Fraternity. We love the broad philosophy, we admire the teachings, that bring us together in the bonds of brotherly love and attune our lives to the same high chord of righteousness and make us ready to do and sacrifice to promote the cause, and exemplify in our lives the noblest motives, until each heart glows with a fervency that is a real inspiration and a joy.
Leo Fisher, then managing editor of the Cabletow, summed up Newton’s Masonic involvement in the Grand Lodge of the Philippines in the editorial which is bodily reproduced below, for it is most probably one of the greatest tributes to him.
Our Retiring Secretary
Bro. Newton C. Comfort is well known not only in the Philippine Islands but also throughout the Masonic world for the eminent service that he has rendered to Masonry, in his modest and unassuming way, since he first entered its portals during the early days of the present century. He has been a master builder, indeed, and much work in our Masonic edifice, both for strength and ornament, is due to his skill and industry. Among those who reared the proud columns of our Grand Lodge, Brother Comfort occupies a leading place. His counsel and advice were eagerly sought by the long line of eminent Masons who have occupied the Grand East since the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands was founded in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and twelve, and until illness overcame and smote him sorely, a few years ago, he was the tower of strength of every Grand Master, and the wise counsellor of the subordinate Lodges of this Grand Jurisdiction. Quietly he came and quietly he has ceased to labor actively in our midst. But he has left that which will go on working for him: that the flame of which he tended with such exquisite care. The work he helped initiate, continued and perfected with such tireless care will be the best and most fitting monument of his active labors. May he not live to see it ruined or profaned by unskilled and unhallowed hand!
With skilled and hallowed hand, indeed, Comfort laid down his working tools when he was 68 at his home in 604 Vermont St., Manila. His heart disease forced him to do so at 4:15, March 5, 1939. But no doubt his Brethren will make his active labors well compensated by the work they do as Masons, both in their private and as well as in their public lives.