On a Sunday afternoon in Corona, 10 members of Temescal Palms Lodge No. 314 gathered in the home of a Mason and his mother, and presented their brother with an award for pioneering in Masonry.
Confined to a wheelchair from birth, Newton Hill “Bill” Gosser exceeded many expectations throughout his life, many of them only possible with the support of his mother, Theda. When Bill was a child, specialists advised Theda to pass his care to an institution. She raised him at home instead, caring for him there throughout his childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. It was in the same home, just weeks after he received the pioneer award, that Bill passed away from cancer. That was a year and a half ago, and Theda was 88 years old.
“A few months before Bill passed away, he told me, ‘Mom, you’ve taken care of me all my life. Now my brothers are going to take care of you,’” Theda says. There are tears in her voice. “They have.”
In the final weeks of his life, Bill helped his mother submit an application for Masonic Outreach Services (MOS). MOS stepped in to help, providing Theda with financial assistance and a care manager, and connecting her with local homecare services so she can continue living in the same home she shared with Bill all his life. Her MOS care manager checks in for practical as well as emotional support: “If I have a problem, she is the first person I talk to,” says Theda. “She has a lot of clients but she’s made me feel like I’m the only one.”
“I’m 89 and I do need a little help,” she says. “The Masons have been so good to me. If it weren’t for them, I would be in a very different situation.”
The first time Theda saw a Masonic pin, she was four years old, and she and her mother were about to board a train from Corona, Calif. to Topeka, Kan. Her father, Roscoe Jeremiah Johnson, took a pin from his jacket and pinned it on hers.
“When the conductor came through the train to collect our tickets, he said what a pretty little pin – and if my Mommy or I needed anything while we were on his train, we should tell him,” she recalls. “That was 84 years ago. I watched my father, my husband, and my son wear that pin. My whole life, it has represented protection. It still does.”