Seated in the back office at Riverhead Masonic Lodge, wearing a blazer, a bow tie and a white cowboy hat, Meyer “Mickey” Segal straightens in his seat as he begins to talk about his wife.
“I met her on a blind date, proposed to her about an hour after and she told me I was crazy,” Mr. Segal said of Corinne “Corky” Segal, with whom he shares a birthday — June 27, 1928 — and four sons.
“Married 67 years, same woman,” he said.
The 87-year-old Riverhead resident speaks with a similar level of commitment about Masonic Lodge No. 645, where he’s been a member for 50 years.
Since joining in September 1965 at his wife’s suggestion, Mr. Segal has spent the first and third Tuesdays of every month with his lodge brothers. That’s 24 fraternal meetings a year and about 1,200 meetings over the past half-century. That doesn’t even count attendance at other events the lodge has hosted.
“I’m proud to be a Mason because of the way I’ve been treated here,” Mr. Segal said. “It’s a brotherly love.”
That “brotherly love” is apparent, as members went out of their way to come into the office and greet their friend. They walked with him around the lodge and proudly hung pictures of him in the kitchen and secretary’s office.
“First off, it’s his smile,” said lodge secretary Matt Van Glad. “He has a very magnetic personality … What he brings to the lodge is the feeling of being comfortable and welcomed and accepted because he really is a nice guy to talk to … He’s like everybody’s uncle.”
According to the Grand Masonic Lodge website, a Mason is defined simply as “a member of a fraternity known as a freemasonry.” This fraternity, however, is not like those you might remember from your college days. Instead, the men “join together because there are things they want to do in the world [and] there are things they want to do ‘inside their own minds.’ ”
The Riverhead Masons have remained about 120 members strong for the past four years, said Mr. Van Glad. Both he and Mr. Segal agreed that many “young men in their 20s and 30s” have joined recently.
A 2011 USA Today article painted a different picture nationally. Richard Fletcher, executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America, said there were about one million fewer masons in 2011 than there were in 1941. Additionally, there were 3 million members worldwide that year, half of them in the U.S. In 1959, there were 4 million members in the U.S. alone, the article stated.
There are numerous positions within Freemasonry. Mr. Segal is the lodge’s tiler, a position he’s held for nearly 30 years. As tiler, he is guardian of the entrance of the lodge.
“You don’t get in the lodge unless I OK you,” he said, adding that he brandishes a sword as part of the job.
In addition to guarding the lodge, Mr. Segal works in the kitchen, helping prepare meals for events and before meetings.
“I raised my hand when I wasn’t supposed to,” he said. “They said they needed help in the kitchen and I never got out of it.”
His work ethic at the lodge overflowed into his career, which has included numerous long-term jobs over the years. He started out in a “very singular family business” with his dad and brother, where they would take used burlap and cotton feed sacks from the duck and potato farms and sell them to clam dealers. Mr. Segal also worked for the Riverhead Town Recreation Department and began selling wholesale motor oil and lubricants in 1990 in Valley Stream at Grade A Petroleum.
“Wherever you go around town, if you ever ask about Mickey they all know him and they all like him and they all know that Mickey’s going to speak the truth and ask the questions that need to be asked,” Mr. Van Glad said. “He really is a brave guy and I wish there were more in the world like Mickey Segal.”
Mr. Segal’s wife is equally as well known in Riverhead, having worked at the Riverhead Free Library circulation desk for 27 years before retiring in 2013. But even before the couple made names for themselves, Mr. Segal’s father, Isaac, had a street — Segal Avenue off East Main St. — named for him.
“I go there several years ago [and the sign says] Sigal,” Mr. Segal said, adding that he went to Town Hall and asked to have it recognized that, despite the misspelling, the sign was dedicated to his father. “[Phil] Cardinale says to me, ‘Why don’t you change your spelling’ and I said, ‘Why don’t you?’ So they changed it.”
Similar to the street sign, things have changed in the lodge over the past 50 years, although Mr. Segal said the changes have been more structural than anything else. He said the paint has been updated, the kitchen no longer serves tubesteaks and a tile design was added to the floor of the upstairs room about 15 years ago. The goals of the Freemasons and the values of lodge members, however, are the same.
“I joined 50 years ago and I’ve been to other lodges,” Mr. Segal said. “This is still the best lodge.”
Photo caption: Mickey Segal stands outside the Riverhead Masonic Lodge No. 645, where he’s been a member for 50 years. He will be celebrated at the lodge in January. (Credit: Nicole Smith)