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Member Spotlight

Honorable, Illustrius, and Most Worshipful
Stephen M. Munsinger, 33°
Sovereign Grand Inspector General Emeritas in Colorado
Past Grand Master of Masons in Colorado

Portrait of Steve MunsingerPhotograph of a combat helicopter flying over a river We all know our SGIG, Steve Munsinger, 33° as a great Mason, the inspirational leader of Scottish Rite Masons in Colorado, and a wonderful friend. For our Member Spotlight this month, we thought that it might be interesting to the Brothers of the Consistory to learn a little more about "the man."

It was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with Steve recently, in developing the background for this Member Spotlight. We shared war stories, political anecdotes, Masonic wisdom, family histories, and "secrets," which we won't divulge! The time flew by quickly and it was truly an honor to learn more about Steve.

Steve grew up in the small town of Howard, Kansas (population 687 in 2010). Howard is the County seat of Elk County and is located in the southeast part of the state. It is primarily a farming/ranching area. Steve's father was a Mason and owned a plumbing and heating supply store in town. Just down the street from his father's store was a set of stairs, leading up to a "secret place" with a square and compass on the door that Steve regularly asked his dad about. Once a month, his dad would put on a suit and tie and go to that mysterious place for a couple of hours in the evening. Hmmmm?

Steve and his older brother Gary spent most of their boyhood summers on their grandparents' farm outside town. Steve learned to ride horseback and often would ride on the back of one of his grandfather's Belgian draft horses — Grace and Loug — while they worked the fields, growing alfalfa and corn. Tagging along with his brother and his brother's friends is where he got his nickname "Trailer."

Steve went to college at Kansas State College of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Kansas, where he received his BA degree. He then went to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois to earn a Master's degree in economics. His plan was to become a college professor, teaching economics. At Northern Illinois, he was the Coordinator of Teaching Assistants and had faculty credentials. He had been active with the ROTC program while at Pittsburgh State and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) in the U. S. Army upon graduation. He received a graduate student deferment while studying for his Master's degree. During his college years, his parents had sold their business and moved to Estes Park, Colorado. Steve spent his college summers working in the Taffy Shop on Elkhorn Avenue in Estes Park, making saltwater taffy. Haven't we all been there at least once? He may be the reason it is so well-known.

In 1966, Steve's college career was put on hold when the Selective Service decided there would be no more graduate deferments. (I can identify with that!) Steve was ordered to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for artillery school. Because he had been a 2LT for about two years, he was promoted to 1LT after only two weeks of active duty. They obviously knew a leader early on! He then applied for, and was accepted into, flight school and was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas and later to Fort Rucker, Alabama as a rotary wing (helicopter) pilot. Upon graduation, the entire platoon was ordered to South Vietnam and Steve went to Soc Tran, South Vietnam. His orders were to the 1st WAC Detachment in Saigon. But ... as luck would have it, a Master Sergeant thought it would be "more appropriate" for Steve to go to the Delta as a Huey pilot. Steve spent a year flying Huey's (Bell UH-1), primarily as a gunship, in the Delta and then rotated back to Fort Rucker as an instructor.

It's interesting to note that in order to be "accepted" into Steve's Huey gunship squadron, the officers and enlisted members of the squadron had to "vote" on accepting you. They wanted comrades in arms that they could trust with their lives and that they knew would never leave them behind. Does this remind you of Masonry? It should. It's also important to note that in order to fly Huey's, the pilot had to be single. This points out just how dangerous the job was during the Vietnam War.

Steve doesn't talk a lot about his military service, but he is genuinely a hero. During his military service, he received the following awards and decorations:
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Bronze Star
  • Purple Heart (for a wound in the upper anterior extremity)
  • Vietnam combat Medal with Device
  • Vietnam Service Medal
  • Air Medal with 37 Oak Leaf Clusters with Device for Valor
  • Overseas Bars
  • Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm

After leaving active military duty, Steve returned to Colorado and received his Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado Law School in just two and a half years, graduating in December 1971. He was admitted to the Colorado State Bar in 1972. He worked for the Denver District Attorney's Office as the Chief Deputy District Attorney for various divisions within the office for about five years, after which he was appointed the Assistant United States Attorney, chief of the Criminal Division. He was in private practice of law for a little more than 20 years until June 2001 when he was appointed to the Bench of the District Court by then governor Bill Owens. In September 2011 he became chief Judge of the District Court. He is now retired, but continues part-time as needed and recently has been involved in establishing a Veterans' Court in Jefferson County and Lakewood. He has received numerous awards in his judicial career and has served as a lecturer and trainer for many law enforcement and judicial commissions and organizations.

Steve has been married to his wife Susan for nearly 40 years. Susan was a schoolteacher for about 30 years and is retired now. He has a daughter by his first marriage (Steve was a single father for about 10 years) and two grandkids in college. They are all in the Denver-Boulder area.

He was raised a Master Mason in Perfection Lodge #193 in Denver. Steve served as the Grand Master of Masons in Colorado in 1998. When I asked him who the most influential men were in his Masonic career, he first mentioned his father, and Lloyd Jameson and Jim Stombaugh. When asked to sum up his experiences in Masonry, Steve indicated that he was so grateful for the many friendships that he made over the years and the "good luck" that he had experienced in his personal, professional, and Masonic life.

The Honorable, Illustrious, and Most Worshipful Stephen M. Munsinger, 33°, S.G.I.G. Emeritus in Colorado, is a very interesting man that I am honored to call "friend." I urge each of you to become more acquainted with Steve. You'll be a better man from knowing him.

Danny L. Tomlinson, 32° KCCH
1st Lieutenant Commander, Colorado Council of Kadosh

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