As the Grand Master of Masons in Washington state, longtime Puyallup resident Jim Mendoza has a lot of responsibilities on his plate.
He’s the head of the Grand Lodge of Washington, a statewide organization with around 14,000 members in 175 lodges representing the freemasons fraternity.
After being elected in June, Mendoza says the work that he’s done in his past few months can be boiled down to supporting one important value: connecting with others.
“The biggest enrichment I get (as a Grand Master) is to travel the state and meet individuals,” said Mendoza, 53. “I’m a big fan of communication (and) do whatever I can do to communicate a message.”
Never miss a local story.
The biggest enrichment I get (as a Grand Master) is to travel the state and meet individuals. I’m a big fan of communication (and) do whatever I can do to communicate a message.
Jim Mendoza, Grand Master of Masons for Washington state
There are a range of initiatives Mendoza supports through his fraternity, helping him to connect with the community around him, but two in particular are near and dear to his heart.
About two years ago, Mendoza was in Washington D.C. awaiting a flight, when he found out about the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization where veterans get a plane ride to Washington D.C. in celebration of their service, and to visit memorials built in honor of them. Veterans were arriving while Mendoza was there, and he got the chance to meet some of them. A handshake with one was all it took.
“I have great respect for our veterans,” Mendoza said. “What do you say to a man like that other than thank you? I said that in my year as Grand Master, we are sponsoring a flight.”
Mendoza wasn’t Grand Master yet, but the vision was there. After joining the fraternity in 1997, he became dedicated to the friendships he built.
“They all took the obligation I did,” Mendoza said. “I (knew) they were good men on the surface. That’s a rare thing.”
As years passed, Mendoza was getting more responsibilities in the fraternity. In 2011, he submitted his name for consideration for Grand Master, but didn’t get elected. He continued submitting his name, all the while holding more titles.
In 2016, when he was finally elected as the Grand Master, he felt the weight of the legacy of those who came before him.
“You look up at the person (before you) and think to yourself, ‘That’s the legacy that I inherit,’” Mendoza said. “It’s a very intimidating legacy.”
At the same time, he knew he had the support of his fellow freemasons.
Anything that we can do to bring awareness to the various programs that are out there helps. When I was elected to office, no one elected me to stay home.
“When I was installed as Grand Master, I could sense that no one wanted me to fail,” he said.
Aside from supporting the Puget Sound and Inland Northwest Honor Flight Networks, which the Grand Lodge of Washington donated around $13,000 to this month, another cause he aims to support is breast cancer awareness.
In 2008, Mendoza’s wife, Laura, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Together, they became a part of the Susan G. Komen organization.
Laura is now taking on her ninth year of survivorship, but Mendoza is still very much involved in raising awareness for breast cancer and expects to raise $5,000 in donations.
As Grand Master, Mendoza got to design a lapel pin that he takes with him everywhere he goes.
The pin features the Grand Lodge of Washington symbol paired with a ribbon split into three colors: blue to represent the Masonic obligation to “do good unto all,” pink for breast cancer awareness and purple for general cancer awareness.
Outside of his freemason obligations, Mendoza works as an independent investment advisor, offering advice about the retirement system. While his position as Grand Master lasts only one year, he plans to use that year to continue to support those organizations.
“Anything that we can do to bring awareness to the various programs that are out there helps,” he said. “When I was elected to office, no one elected me to stay home.”