BUNNY IN THE CITY: Alee Shriners' Ahoy Mateys Pirate’s Night

Celebrating the Alee Shriners Potentate’s Ball Weekend with a kickoff at Savannah Smiles, a Shooting Clay day, then ending with the Potentate’s Formal Ball, I was lucky enough to attend them all, but found my most colorful characters at the “Ahoy Mateys” Pirate’s Night, Friday, March 3 at the Alee Shrine Temple on Eisenberg Dr.

Arriving just in time to hear a pirate ship blast an air cannon, I glance over and see First Lady of Alee Cookie Moore gazing at her husband, Potentate Robbie Moore while they are waiting to be introduced. The years she has spent watching Robbie represent 13 units and 19 clubs, to the five year journey into leading the temple as Potentate has led to this moment!

Following Cookie and Robbie as they march under an arch of sabers to the sound of hundreds of celebratory cheers, I stand transfixed staring at every type of pirate you can imagine! Leading the pack is Past Potentate Steve Lingle. Sporting the most authentic Jack Sparrow costume of the night, Steve tells me to check his wife Donna’s outfit, “She is the perfect wench!”

A member of the Alee Shriners since 1979, Steve tells me why he is passionate about the Shrine mission. “My daughter was born with a cleft palate. My wife and I were lucky enough to have good insurance but at the hospital there was a little boy in the room next to us from North Georgia who had severe facial issues. His nose was off-center, he had no lips and he had an extremely bad cleft palate. His parents couldn’t afford his surgery so the Shriners brought him to Savannah to have reconstructive surgery. That was the day I decided to be Shriner,” shares the 2022 Past Potentate.

Ok, I may have the sniffles over that last statement but it doesn’t last long because I start smiling when I see so many past potentates like Mike Stanley, Charlie Stokes and Dave Armstrong. A long time fan of the former Backus Cadillac superstar, I grab a pic of Dave with his lovely wife Marlene then head over to snap pics of Chief Aide John Willis and Potentate Personal Aide Carl Hendricks.

While grabbing a Sprite to sip from Ben Carroll, I convince him to pose with his fellow Alee Pirates Justin Myers, Matthew Butler and Logan Spencer. In full pirate regalia, Logan is a logistics “people person” and is the perfect candidate for being a Pirate - fun, lovable and charismatic! With Alee Pirates cruising around Savannah for the past 44 years, there are currently 84 boisterous pirates looking for a few good men to join them!

Speaking of charisma, the Alee Shriners secretary Colleen Humphries literally has a personalized car tag declaring she is LADYFAB. In her 11 years at Alee, Colleen has seen it all! From renting out the 10,000 square foot ballroom, to providing content for the President’s Newsletter and coordinate trips with the Alee Roadrunners for patients to and from hospitals in Greenville, SC, Dayton, OH, and Philadelphia, PA,  this woman is the heart of the Alee Temple!

After a pic of Colleen with her fast-talking husband Freddie, I weave through visiting Divans (Executive Council members) from Atlanta, Macon, Albany and Chattanooga to chat with Earl Futch. The always smiling Mobile Unit Classic owner restores and rebuilds classic cars in Richmond Hill, has been a Mason then a Shriner 25 years ago and is currently President.

Well, well, well - we have the world famous Keystone Kops in the kitchen cooking their much loved low country boil! In charge is Chief Chris “Skinny” Barnes, a Rincon native who tells me, “I remember when I was 12 years old and sitting at the table with my granddaddy at the original Effingham County Club. You could find us there every second Tuesday of the month. He was my hero and it was natural for me to do what he did - being a Shriner is everything.”

After a pic of “Skinny” with Terrance White, Wes Silas and Buddy Grayson, I pull Buddy aside and ask the former Potentate what he doesn’t do! The prosthetist and orthotist is a jack of trades, an Alee Advisor and the person that everyone goes to for his opinion. I met Buddy a few years ago when he was Potentate while overseeing their wildly successful haunted house, but was re-acquainted when my good friend Greg Lard called to ask me to attend their annual officer elections. 

Always wearing his gold Masonic ring, I knew Greg had an extensive history with his former Masonic Lodge in Alabama. A 25-year member of the lodge, Greg was amped when Potentate Robbie Moore approached him and asked him to handle public relations. “Since Greg came in as chairman, he has done an excellent job of getting the message of what we do and why we are here,” shares the 2023 Potentate.

Making a lap through what has to be close to 300 supporters, I pause Cookie to chat with her about their 14-year journey with the Shriners.“It’s what we do and it’s worth every minute of the years we have dedicated to caring for kids. From the years of taking photos, to the years of working the line - everything we do, every event, fundraiser and auction is to raise money for the Shriners Children’s Hospital. When you see the smiles of the children and how you have impacted their lives and their entire family, you understand why we do this- we would do this without a title,” shares the First Lady. 

As I watch men from all walks of life, ages and professions join in a night of celebration, I recall something Alee Treasurer John Farley told me earlier, “This weekend is a culmination of Robbie’s life as a Mason and a Shriner, of earning the trust of his nobles and it is really is the pinnacle of the journey to being the leader.” 

Seeing the Masonic values of fellowship play out in real life, I have a better understanding why these men dedicate so much of their life to an organization that provides healthcare for any child that can not help themselves. Joining in spirit, time, talent and means to make this world a better place, trust me when I tell you that is exactly what they are doing!