ELIZABETHTOWN — With the Bladen County Shrine Club on the cusp of its 35th annual fish fry tomorrow, one member took time to fondly recall his years of service with the group.
John Creech, 80, is a charter member of the Bladen County Shrine Club, which formed in March 1979. Since its charter, the Bladen County Shrine Club has held an annual fish fry fundraiser in support of the Shriner’s Hospitals. “This is our 35th fry in Bladen County — and out of 34 years, we’ve only had one rainy day,” said Creech.
He recounted how, on that day, the former Hills Supermarket building, which is now occupied by Healthworks Fitness, was empty and the group moved the fish fry indoors at that location. Creech said the group was able to fry fish there all day.
Creech said fried fish plates are something that the Shriners are noted for.
“More or less, it was what it seemed most of the clubs were doing,” said Creech of the fundraiser. He added that, at the time the club began its annual fall fundraiser, flounder could be purchased at a reasonable price and the expenses for a fish fry were minimal.
He said since the Bladen County Shrine Club was chartered, they have raised enough money to donate more than $400,000 to the Shriner’s Hospital.
According to Creech, when the group was founded in 1979, there were 160 members. Today, the Bladen County Shrine Club does all its work with just 30 members, according to Creech.
He said that he became interested in Masonry when he was a young N.C. State Highway Patrol trooper assigned to Robeson County.
“All of the law enforcement officers seemed to be Masons,” said Creech. “As a young trooper working with them, they let me know they wanted me to join. It appealed to me. It sounded like a good, honorable thing.”
Last March, Creech celebrated his 50th year as a Mason with a pin and certificate. He joined the “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine” in 1976 at a ceremony in Fayetteville where he was made a Noble of that order.
Creech helped to found the Bladen County Shrine Club in March 1979. He served as the club’s first treasurer, serving for about 12 years — then served as club president in 2001, and served again as treasurer from 2006 to 2009 and served as president again in 2010.
The original officers of the Bladen County Shrine Club were Bob Marshburn, who served as president; Russell Grimes, who served as vice-president; and Aubry Flint, who served as secretary.
The Shrine Fraternity was founded in 1870 in Manhattan by Dr. Walter Fleming and William J. Florence, an actor, according to Creech. Currently, there are 22 Shriners Hospitals — three of which are for burn injuries, one in Houston, Texas which treats cleft palates, three which treat spinal cord injuries, and others treat orthopedic ailments, said Creech.
He said Bladen County currently has three families who are receiving treatments through the Shriners Hospitals. Creech said the maximum age to receive treatment through the Shriners Hospital system is 18 years old.
“We have got some of the best doctors and surgeons working in these hospitals,” said Creech. He added that if a family does not have insurance, the treatments are free.
Creech said that a family seeking treatment does not have to be affiliated in any way with a Shrine Club member to receive their services.
When asked what being involved in the Shrine Club means to him, Creech paused and slowly smiled, “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing you’re doing something for a worthy cause. It’s a great feeling for me.”?