Many Grand Lodges have some sort of special award for individuals Masons, often the highest award a Blue Lodge Mason can receive from his Grand Master. I suppose some may not, I haven't researched all the Grand Lodges. But those that have this award have many different names for it, often naming their prestigious recognition after some early famous Grand Lodge Officer who made a significant contribution to that state's Masonry.
In Massachusetts this award is called The Joseph Warren Medal and it is a real medal worn by the recipient. Dr. Joseph Warren was Grand Master during the Revolutionary War and died fighting in Battle when he was Grand Master at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He made the ultimate contribution - his life.
The only way you can get a Joseph Warren Medal in Massachusetts is by recommendation of a sitting Master. You don't have to be a Master or even an officer to get this medal, but you do have to have made some pretty significant contributions to your Grand Lodge, your local Lodge and your community. The Master has to write a letter of recommendation to the Grand Master who then researches the Brother recommended and rules on whether he will give out the award. I have seen some Brothers turned down as they try to keep this award as something really special. But you can't apply for it yourself.
I have also seen many Masters forget all about the ability they have to make this recommendation. They pass up a real chance to award someone who in most cases is not an old Past Master but more likely a younger, vibrant maker and shaker.
I made that recommendation for Brother Dick from my Lodge. Brother Dick was a very hard worker who sweet talked me into his officers line as Senior Deacon while I was a sitting Master at another Lodge. I can remember one week of performing the ritual for the First Degree on Monday as Master in the East and then on Tuesday performing the Senior Deacon's ritual in the Second Degree including of course The Middle Chamber lecture.
Brother Dick was and is quite a man. He was Chairman of the Board for the local DeMolay Chapter. He made DeMolay work in our city. He was President of D.A.R.E. for the city and Masonic representative to that Masonic community involvement. He was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Masonic Building. He taught inner city kids at his church what morality was all about as a religious teacher. He was a recent Past Master and his labor in the Craft was far from over.
The Grand Master granted Brother Dick that award which we all keep secret from the recipients until we spring the medal on them in a special Lodge ceremony. Generally what will happen is that the District Deputy will present the award (sometimes the Grand Master will do that). The recipients family is notified and asked to be present at Lodge. The District Deputy will request the Master to put the Lodge from labor to refreshment and the doors will open for all friends and family and non Masons to enter. Previous to which the District Deputy will have requested all previous recipients of this medal to attend the ceremony.
The recipient will be conducted to the East to have his surprise presented in front of family and friends. The District Deputy will then say some words as to what the recipient has done to merit such an award. Then the District Deputy will ask all the previous recipients of the Joseph Warren medal present to line up on the West side of the altar. He will then introduce each previous recipient and ask if any have something to say. Most do. Then all previous recipients will line up in the East, one by one congratulating the newest Joseph Warren medal holder. Lastly the recipient will say a few words. And this is exactly how it happened.The picture below shows the previous Joseph Warren medal holders congratulating Brother Dick as they pass through the East. This is a very similar to the way 50 year pins are presented in Massachusetts.
Brother Dick was the Installing Master who installed me as Master and all my officers. He did so dressed in Colonial Degree Costume as did the rest of the Installing suite. Brother Dick was also my sponsor into church. He now sits as District Deputy of my former Masonic District and he is far from done in what he hopes to do in the Fraternity.
Also in my two year tenure as Master I started a Lodge award from the Past Masters to the Lodge Brother who performed meritorious service above and beyond the call of duty. I called all the Past Masters into meeting and we nominated three Lodge Brothers for the award. Then we cast a secret ballot and awarded the recognition to the winner. I had a special plaque made for the recipient.
The first winner of this award, which we called the Past Masters Special Service Award,was Brother Joe. Joe was Chairman of the Service Committee. It was his job to visit the sick and report on the same at every business meeting. Well Brother Joe not only visited the sick, he drove them to the Dr's office, picked up prescriptions at the pharmacy for them, and visited the Lodge widows often bringing them flowers. He carried Masonic service to its finest height and it was a pleasure to honor him for his service.