Famous Freemasons From History!

Famous Freemasons From History: Ernst Borgnine (Originally Posted 5/13/16)

March 31, 2023

Seldom in modern entertainment is there an actor or actress who transcends the age boundary and is universally known by all generations. One of these rare performers was Ernest Borgnine, who was not only one of the most prolific actors of the past 100 years but was also a 33° Brother from Virginia.

Brother Borgnine was born to Anna Boselli and Camillo Borgnino, on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut.  In his younger years Bro. Borgnine was an active and athletic young man. He took an interest in any physical activity, but had a particular affinity for boxing and theater. He attended James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated in 1935. Almost immediately after graduating, Bro. Borgnine enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served aboard the Minesweeper USS Lamberton, from 1935-1941. He re-enlisted in 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and served aboard the USS Sylph until 1945 when he was Honorably Discharged.

After returning home from the Navy, Bro. Borgnine decided to enroll at the Randall School for Dramatic Arts, and studied there for six months. After this time he moved to Abingdon, Virginia, where he became a member of the Barter Theater. He served the theater in many capacities, starting as a set designer and moving all the way up to a leading man. During his time at the Barter Theater, Bro. Borgnine joined Abingdon Lodge No. 48. Borgnine took his Entered Apprentice degree on July 7, 1948. Several months later on April 25, 1949, he was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft and after another week he was raised a Master Mason on May 2, 1949.

In 1951, he made the decision to move to California and work as a full time actor. Working through several bit roles, he got his big break as Army Sergeant “Fatso” Judson in From Here to Eternity. After this role he began getting more work and won his first Oscar in 1955 for his leading role in Marty. He continued working assorted Hollywood roles until 1962 when he was cast in his most well known role as Quinton McHale on the T.V. show McHale’s Navy. Later on in life Bro. Borgnine starred in another famous T.V. role. In 1999 he became the voice of “Mermaid Man” on the children’s show Spongebob, a role that some of our younger members may be familiar with. The stability of T.V. allowed Bro. Borgnine to become more active in masonic work. He completed his Scottish Rite degrees in the Valley of Los Angeles on March 14, 1964. On June 6 of the same year he became a Noble at Al Malaikah Shrine Temple. The next year on February 4, 1965, Borgnine became a dual member at Hollywood Lodge No. 355. In 1979, Bro. Borgnine received the Knight Commander of the Court of Honor (K.C.C.H.), the 33° was conferred upon him in 1983, and in 1991 he was awarded the Grand Cross.

Not content to just be a “celebrity mason” Bro. Borgnine used his starpower to help promote the good work the craft does. He became an active member of the Scottish Rite Childhood Language Center, and between 1972 and 2002 he marched several times in a Shrine unit as the “Grand Clown” in the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee. Outside of masonic work Bro. Borgnine worked on behalf of Veterans with the National Salute to Hospitalized veterans, which he was the Chairman of in 1996.

Brother Borgnine lived a long and fulfilling life, worthy of admiration. He passed away on July 8, 2012, from complications associated with kidney failure. If you would like to know more about our Illustrious Brother, click here!

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