Memorial Service Tradition
Dates to Beginning of Elks
The day is commemorated to the memories of departed Members. The service is held even if there were no deaths within a given Lodge during the year.
The service consists of a speech from the Exalted Ruler, a prayer from the Chaplain, a roll call of the deceased, and an offering of a forget-me-not, an amaranth, and ivy to the Altar. “Auld Lang Syne” is then sung.
Additional songs, processions, and the lighting of candles are all encouraged. The ceremony is public (and can even be held in a church), but the Club and Social Parlor of a Lodge are closed.
The tradition is almost as old as the Order itself. According to the History of the Order of the Elks, the first such memorial services were performed in 1870, when two Members of New York, NY Lodge No. 1 died. Fellow Brothers suggested honoring them with a “Lodge of Sorrow” by decorating the Lodge and holding a session with songs and a eulogy.
In 1889, Exalted Grand Ruler (as the position was known then) Hamilton E. Leach recommended that the Memorial be observed annually, and the resolution was unanimously adopted at the Grand Lodge Session of 1890.
“The Elks Memorial Day is important because we use this day to honor and cherish the memories of those Elks who have passed away,” said Mark Bump, PDDGER and Lodge Secretary for Joliet, IL Lodge No. 296. “It is one of the most moving ceremonies in all of Elkdom.”
Bump said that he wasn’t involved with the Elks until the death of his father, a Member for 11 years. Bump attended a Memorial Day ceremony where his father was honored and it helped inspire him to join.
“I never went to the Lodge or wanted to get involved with the organization until his passing and I am grateful that I did,” Bump said. “As I have moved up the ranks in my 26 years as a Member I have learned more and more about this organization everyday. I am thankful for the people I have met, not just from my own Lodge but Elks across the state of Illinois and the country.”