A St. Petersburg Legacy – The Masonic Home
Monday, April 26th, 2010
Our founder, William F. McQueen, spent much of his early childhood at The Masonic Home

Our founder, William F. McQueen, spent much of his early childhood at The Masonic Home

When Albert Wallace Gilchrist rallied support from his fellow Masons in 1902 to build a safe haven for children and the elderly, he had no idea the legacy he was creating. He also had no way of knowing how intricately tied it would become with the legacy of Anderson-McQueen.

Located on the shores of Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg, the Masonic Home opened its doors in 1919. “At first, we cared for both children and the elderly who needed help,” explains Diana Butler, Director of Social Services. “It was safe place for children of Free Masons to live and get an education.” William Finlayson McQueen, founder of Anderson-McQueen Family Tribute Centers, was one of those children.

William and his siblings were sent to the Masonic Home after their father passed away.  “It’s where my dad spent his early childhood. That was home,” recalls John McQueen. While there, he received an education and instruction in orchestra, band, and piano. He also formed life-long friendships.

“My dad excelled in sports and music,” John says. “He got a scholarship to the Florida Military Academy and after graduation he served in WWII. When he came back, he opened his own funeral home.”

William F. McQueen strengthened his connection with the Masonic Home when he started his own family. “I remember going to the sunrise Easter services at the band shell,” John shares. “When we had funerals where the families didn’t want the extra flowers, we’d often take them to the Masonic Home. Before the office had a mimeograph machine, my dad would send me over there when he needed a copy.  I even borrowed their float for my high school homecoming.”

St. Petersburg Masonic HomeHonoring the fraternal organization that provided him a safe place to grow up, William became a Mason and was the Monarch of the Selama Grotto in St. Petersburg. “My uncles went into masonry as well,” says John, who belongs to the Northside Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, located on the grounds of the Masonic Home. “My brother and I both followed in their footsteps.  That’s how families create legacies.”

In the 1950s, the Masonic Home transitioned from caring for both children and the elderly to focusing only on seniors. Today, it is a non-profit long-term care facility with nearly 200 beds, and is operated by the Grand Lodge of Florida. “We’re both an Assisted Living Facility and a Skilled Nursing Facility,” says Diana.  “No one is turned away as long as they meet the Masonic requirements and we can offer the care they need.”

Spread across 18 scenic acres, the Masonic Home has everything residents need, including an on-site beauty shop, walking trails, a library, a dining room that overlooks the water, a museum of Mason history, a chapel and a ceramics shop. There’s even a hotel on the property where family and friends can stay. With a full-time activity staff that organizes outings to ballgames, restaurants and special events, no one ever gets bored.

One of the things that makes the Masonic Home different from other long-term care facilities is that they take care of all of their resident’s needs, up to and including funeral arrangements. “We own several lots in a local cemetery, and if a resident needs us to, we utilize Anderson-McQueen for their services,” Diana explains. “We are here to take care of the person until the end of their life.”

St. Petersburg Masonic HomeAnderson-McQueen carries on William’s legacy by ensuring that that everyone who lives at the Masonic Home receives a proper funeral when the time comes. “It’s all part of the legacy and heritage of our family,” John says. “We give them the same level of service we give every family and extend that high level of service at a special rate because of our longstanding relationship.”

Diana considers Anderson-McQueen “a blessing,” and shares how important it is for the Masonic Home to work with others who share their level of dedication.  “Your company has to be run in a certain manner in order for me to know you’re going to provide quality care,” she says. “Anderson-McQueen provides that quality care.”

For Anderson-McQueen, the relationship with the Masonic Home is about honoring life and legacy. “Not having a father in his life, my dad built relationships with a lot of the kids there and they were friends until he died,” John shares. “We continue our relationship with the Masonic Home as a way to pay tribute to our father and keep both of our legacies alive.”

The Horse-Drawn Hearse – Classic Style as a Signature Service
Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

hearsestorageWhen Anderson-McQueen discovered an antique funeral coach for sale in West Palm Beach, they decided to make it part of their family. “We’ve built our business helping families preserve their legacies,” said COO, Director and owner John McQueen. “It was important to preserve a piece of our own industry’s legacy.”

Funeral coaches, now called hearses, played an important role in American history. From President Lincoln to Roy Rogers, horse-drawn carriages have been used in funeral processions as a way to express the importance and value of the life being honored.

They also helped spur the expansion of the US manufacturing industry. According to The Carriage Trade by Thomas A. Kinney, “wagon and carriage parts manufacturers fashioned huge quantities of parts as identical as they could make them.” This contributed to the growth of the economy and was an integral step in developing the motorized hearses used today.

hearse1900Horse-drawn funeral carriages first appeared in the United States during the mid-19th century after families realized they wanted burial options beyond church grounds. What’s known as the “rural cemetery movement” was inspired by romantic perceptions of nature, a love of art, and a desire to surround loved ones who’d passed with both. Drawing from innovative burial ground designs in England and France, the first rural cemeteries were established around elevated areas on the outskirts of town.

The scenery and views may have been spectacular, but the cemeteries were often miles from the church and posed an interesting challenge to funeral homes: how to get the casket from the service to the burial site.

hearsesandA two-wheeled boxcar was the first conveyance method used, but the wood caskets were unprotected and exposed to the elements. The boxcars quickly evolved into elaborate, glass-enclosed transports that kept the traditional black exterior, but included gilded highlights. Often draped inside with velvet and tassels, the new carriages allowed for the pomp and circumstance so popular during Victorian times.

In 1994, the McQueen family shared with one of their funeral directors that they were interested in purchasing an antique coach. They’d had requests from families over the years and felt it would be a great addition to their specialized services. It wasn’t long before their director located one for sale. Designed by the craftsmen of the American Midwest, the coach reflected the quality of an era past, but was in need of some tender loving care.

horsehearseBuilt by Crane & Breed of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1895, the coach’s wood was mottled and much of the metal corroded. After being shipped to St. Petersburg, the coach was stripped to its original wood and the steel parts sandblasted and repainted. Master craftsman Fred Kenfield used dental tools and small files to clean the intricate pieces before he hand finished the wood and painted it to the coach’s original specifications.

Traditionally pulled by black horses for adults and white for children, today, the Anderson-McQueen coach is usually drawn by Clydesdales, an easy-going breed that handles traffic and crowds well. “We’re often asked to bring it to parades and festivals,” says McQueen. “And we do use it for funeral services when a family requests it.”

From traditional military ceremonies and celebrity funerals to families looking to honor their loved ones in this time-honored manner, a horse-drawn funeral coach adds a touch of elegance to any service.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Anderson-McQueen at 727-822-2059.

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