June 12, 2013

Masons recognize special teacher, fireman

Rachel Brown

— For centuries, the Freemasons have left their mark on communities. This year, Dalton’s Masonic Lodge 105 decided to leave a mark in a new way — by naming a firefighter of the year and an educator of the year.

In a special ceremony earlier this week open to family members, the Masons recognized Westwood School gifted teacher Martha Berry Whitener Thomason for her dedication to her students. They also recognized Dalton firefighter Terry Lee Rogers for his work ethic and skills, which included helping resuscitate a fire victim earlier this year.

According to The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Georgia’s website, www.glofga.org, the organization’s members are part of a “charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society,” and “Its only secrets are in its methods of recognition and of symbolic instruction.”

Past Grand Master J. Edward Jennings Jr. handed out the awards, with each recipient receiving a plaque and applause. The Lodge solicited the help of local educators in choosing a recipient and decided to honor Thomason, a long-time educator who said all she ever wanted to do was be a teacher and raise her family.

Even when Thomason wasn’t teaching as she took off 18 years to raise her children, she said, she was volunteering in the community and was an advocate for education. She was a parent representative for the Georgia Association for Gifted Children from 1996 to 2000 before returning to teach in 2000. She and her husband, Larry Thomason, helped start a parent advocate group, the Advocates of Dalton Challenge Program. Also in 2000, she received the National Association for Gifted Children’s Parent of the Year Award for her volunteer and advocacy efforts.

She is named after distant cousin Martha Berry, who founded Berry College and helped provide educational opportunities for poor children who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

“I can’t remember a time when I did not want to be a teacher,” Thomason said.

Dalton Fire Department Chief Bruce Satterfield accepted the firefighter of the year award on Rogers’ behalf as the firefighter was out of town and unable to attend. Rogers was nominated by the staff on his shift for the award.

Satterfield said Rogers is motivated, hard-working and skilled.

“He’s a good mechanic. He has initiative. He does things without being told,” Satterfield said.

Rogers has assisted with several types of training for his shift and has excelled in advanced vehicle rescue techniques, Satterfield said.

The Dalton City Council also recognized Rogers with a certificate of commendation for helping resuscitate a woman who was suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. The woman died days later, but Rogers’ quick actions gave medical workers a chance to try to save her, officials said.