Freemason celebrates being a centenarian
“Don’t worry. If you have something that worries you, think about it. What you can or can’t do, forget it.”
For Jack Fleming, that’s the secret to living a long life, and judging by how long he’s been around, there’s no arguing against it.
Even at 100, he can still walk with the aid of a cane. He still plays poker and pool, and grabs his own groceries at the supermarket, putting them in the car he drives himself.
“I don’t drive at night, but I’m still good for this year,” Fleming said.
Fleming hasn’t slowed down much in his century of life, and on Saturday, he and his Freemason friends celebrated his 100th birthday in the auditorium at Gulf Coast Village.
Fleming’s Masonic friends at Gulf Coast and throughout the community came by to honor his longstanding service to Freemasonry, hear his stories and tell some of their stories about their service to the fraternity, with some having been Freemasons almost as long as him.
This on the heels of several other parties that have been thrown for him since hitting the century mark on Feb. 12.
Originally from New Jersey, he and his family moved to Miami when he was 10 years old. His father built a house that is still standing, and his sister now lives there. Fleming moved to Cape Coral in 1981 and has been a resident at Gulf Coast Village since 1998.
He is a veteran of World War II, serving in Air Corps supplies and parts, and he owned his own business selling automotive paint to body shops.
In Freemasonry, he holds the 33rd Past District Deputy Grand Master Degree, which was attained in 1971 through years of dedicated service.
“It’s honorary. You get that after a few years if you work for it enough,” Fleming said. “It’s near and dear to my heart.”
Many of his awards and artifacts were on display on a table for his fellow Freemasons to see as if they were a passage through time.
Fleming showed the picture of him and his graduating class of 400 into the 32nd Degree in Jacksonville in 1962, Fleming said his group rented a train with eight cars and that he was in charge of them.
When asked why Freemasonry is so important, Fleming gave it much thought. Even after all these years, he didn’t really have an answer, saying simply, “We don’t brag about it.”
Fleming remains very active he runs the men’s poker group at Gulf Coast Village and even drives himself to Publix a few times a week.
He has also been an elder in the Presbyterian Church for more than 70 years.
To Bruce Rivera, 20, a Master Mason, Fleming is amazing.
“We have a picture together when I became a Master Mason and it was a nice picture. He’s amazing. There are no words to describe him. He’s a living legend,” Rivera said. “He’s one of my biggest mentors. When I first met him, I thought, ‘Wow.'”
Hal Abelson, a Mason for nearly 60 years, said he hasn’t known anyone with his Masonic stature that lived to be 100.
“Jack lives and eats Masonry and he educates people who are young and has been recognized nationally as an educator,” Abelson said. “He’s a good man.”
“He’s one of a kind. I’ve played poker and pool with him and he’s good at both. Jack is someone everyone looks up to,” said Paul Ross, another 60-plus year Mason. “Everyone things he’s a great person.