As Shriners, we are part of an international organization that strengthens us individually, enhances our families and makes us part of a history of brotherhood and camaraderie. And, as Shriners, we also have the opportunity to be legacies. The Legacy Program helps strengthen our fraternal bonds with those closest to us and allows members to honor the many men who laid the foundation of our great fraternity.
February is now designated as Legacy Month. Throughout the month, temples are encouraged to host Legacy Nights to promote membership and honor the members who have taken part in this program. Shriners International will also share stories of legacy families in our various publications and on our websites in recognition of their dedication to the Shriners fraternity.
For many men, like those in the Smith family, being a Shriner is a family tradition that stretches across generations.
Noble Ross Bartley Smith
Ninety-two-year-old Ross Smith, a member of Midian Shriners in Wichita, Kansas, is still an extremely active noble. He has been a member of the director’s staff for more than 60 years, and has not missed a Ceremonial since 1950. He is also a proud member of a Shriners Legacy family.
Smith was born into a Masonic family and his grandfather, father, three uncles, brother-in-law, son and grandson have all been, or are currently, members of the Shriners International fraternity. In fact, his great grandsons’ petitions are already filled out too – they just need to be the proper age to sign (their current ages are 2 and 14).
When he was 8 years old, Smith lost his dad. In his teens, Smith began to hang out at Wichita Fire Station #5. At that time, the fire service had a rich history of Masonic service.
“I lived by the fire station and all the firemen were Masons and Shriners,” said Smith. “Growing up, I looked up to them.”
The firemen at #5 saw to it that Smith followed his father’s wish and became a Freemason.
Smith joined the Wichita Chapter of DeMolay International in 1938, and was honored with the DeMolay Legion of Honor Award in 1978. He was raised a Master Mason in 1950, and also joined the Scottish Rite and Midian Shriners that same year. Smith also joined Wichita Lodge #99 and Community Daylight Lodge #455, where he served as Master in 2006, 2008 and 2014 – the first time at age 81 and the last at 89.
In 1969, Smith followed his father’s footsteps and began to work on the Consistory stage. He has served as both Assistant Director of Rituals and Director of Rituals, and has been Director Emeritus since 1996. He currently volunteers 40 hours a week at the Consistory.
“He is considered an icon of Masonry in Kansas,” said Smith’s son, Fred Smith. “And his memory work is still impeccable.”
Smith is very proud of his Masonic heritage. He assisted in raising his son, Fred, as a Master Mason in 1975, and in 2002, along with Fred, raised his grandson, Scott, as a Master Mason.
Smith has also been very active within Midian Shriners and is still involved with several units at the temple. He was a charter member of the Wheatwackers unit, which builds miniature combines, and is an active member of the Director's Staff, a unit that his father helped establish in 1922. He is also a member of the Past Masters Unit, and many of the nobles of Midian Shriners have learned and benefited from his knowledge of Masonry. In addition, Smith is a veteran of the Parade Committee.
“I belong to the greatest fraternity in the world, with the greatest philanthropy in the world,” said Smith. ”I have been a Shriner for 68 years – Shrinedom is a part of life for me.”
A life dedicated to service
Smith has also been active in civic work. Because of his love for the fire service, he joined the Wichita Fire Reserve in 1943 and served as chief in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also active in the Boy Scouts, and served as committee chairman for Troop 606. During his time with the troop, more than 20 scouts received their Eagle Scout Award. He has also served as a deacon, elder and trustee for his church, Mount Vernon Presbyterian.
Smith began his career with Sedgwick County as a draftsman. He then went to work for the State Highway Commission, now known as the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). He retired from KDOT as the area utilities coordinator in 1989, after working there for 45 years.
Although in his 90s, Smith still drives every day, and “feels great,” which he credits to eating well and staying active – his doctors even ask him what his secret is. He also volunteers his time at the Wichita Scottish Rite for six hours every day, doing light maintenance.
“Because of the fraternity, I’ve got a reason to get up in the morning,” said Smith. “And I’m so blessed with a wonderful family. I’m very, very proud.”
Smith was married to the late Charlene Smith for 64 years. He has three children, Roslyn Lewis and Denise Steiner of Manhattan, Kansas, and Fred Smith of Wichita. He also has six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Start your family’s legacy today
We encourage everyone to pass along the Shriners tradition of fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth in their family, and to strengthen their fraternal legacy. Shriners International will continue to grow from one generation to the next when you share the tradition and join the Shriners Legacy Program.