Biography James H. Rixon

James H. Rixon
Grand Commander

Rixon Double Layer 2 Group Final
James Herbert Rixon passed from this life on May 1, 2017. James was born September 24, 1961 in Farmington, New Mexico. Graduating from high school in 1980, he enlisted in the United States Army and served as a medic for the 82nd Airborne Division. Upon his return, he worked for his father’s flight instruction school as a mechanic. In 1990, he re-enlisted and served during Operation Desert Storm. After serving, he was able to work as an installer for carpet, vinyl, tile, etc. for ten years before his injuries from the war caught up with him. He has spent his time since in service to his community and Masonry.

James was always proud of his military service and became an active member of the Hugh K. Gale VFW Post No. 2182 in Farmington, NM; where he was the Chaplain, member of both the Honor and Color Guard, and managed the Post’s Bingo game for several years. He was also a member of the congregation at Cross Roads Community Church of the Nazarene in Farmington, NM. His faith was well founded and unmovable; filling his soul with love and kindness. He was always ready and willing to contribute to the relief of a distressed individual in any way he was able; without judgement or thought of receiving anything in return.

Brother Rixon was Initiated May 2, 2005, Passed to the Degree of Fellow Craft on January 5, 2006, and Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on August 1, 2006 in Animas Lodge No. 15 in Farmington, New Mexico; and affiliated with San Juan Lodge No. 25 in Aztec, New Mexico on February 27, 2007. He served as Worshipful Master of Animas Lodge in 2009 and again in 2014. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the Masonic Charity Foundation of New Mexico, serving from 2012 to 2014. And in 2013, he was appointed District Deputy Grand Lecturer for the 1st Masonic District.

Worshipful Brother James H. Rixon was currently serving as the Grand Marshal of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of New Mexico.
                                                                                                                                                
Companion James was Exalted a Royal Arch Mason in November, 2006. He served as Excellent High Priest for Basin Chapter No. 19 in 2010 and 2011. Excellent Companion Rixon was a member of the Order of the High Priesthood, and served as President in 2015. He was appointed to the Grand Chapter line as Grand Master of the 1st Veil in 2013 by R. Gary Browne, PGHP. The same year, he was appointed as the Ambassador for New Mexico of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, International. In 2014 he received the Distinguished Service Award in Bronze in honor of his consistent contributions to Royal Arch Masonry and the Craft in general.

Most Excellent Companion James H. Rixon was continuing his service and currently serving as the Ambassador for New Mexico for the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International; and had been elected and was serving as the Grand King of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New Mexico.

Companion Rixon was Greeted a Royal and Select Master in November, 2006. He served as Illustrious Master of Navajo Council No. 6 in 2014. Illustrious Companion James was a member and serving as an officer in the Order of the Silver Trowel. In 2015 Paul A. Brehm, PGM, appointed him as the Grand Conductor of the Council.

Right Illustrious Companion James H. Rixon was currently elected and serving as the Grand Principal Conductor of the Work for the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of New Mexico.

Sir Knight Rixon was Knighted in the Order of the Temple in November, 2006. He served as Commander for Shiprock Commandery No. 15 in 2012 and 2013. James was a member of the Past Commanders Association of New Mexico and currently serving as an officer. In 2013, he also received the Knight Templar Cross of Honor for his service as a Chivalric Knight – in all of his life; and was appointed as Grand Standard Bearer by Dickie W. Winchester, PGC.

Sir Knight James H. Rixon, KTCH was currently serving as the Right Eminent Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of New Mexico.

Brother, Companion and Sir Knight James served in many of our Appendant and Concordant Bodies. He was a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and continued to be an active member in the Valley of Santa Fe, serving on eight separate degree teams. He was an active member or officer in several invitational bodies, including the New Mexico College of Masonic Rosicrucians, Mount of Olives Tabernacle of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, St. Sophia Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine, New Mexico College No. 145 of the York Rite Sovereign College, and in the Chapter of the Knights of York Cross of Honour. In his spare time, he also served as an Advisor of the James H. Gibson Chapter of the International Order of DeMolay in Farmington, New Mexico. He was known for his constant work throughout all of these bodies, and his endless pursuit of more Masonic knowledge.

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon were charged with protection of the Pilgrims who were seeking the road to Jerusalem. Jim was a Chivalric Knight and a true Mason, he would help any time and any way he could whenever asked. He was truly a servant of the Craft, and a great example of a friend, Brother, Companion and Sir Knight. He will be missed. May we all be blessed enough to have learned from and to continue his work.

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Biography J. Erick VanEckhoutte

J. Erick VanEckhoutte
Grand High Priest

J. Erick VanEckhoutte, Grand High Priest

Most Excellent Companion Erick VanEckhoutte was born in Antonito, Colorado and Raised in Flora Vista, New Mexico. After graduating from Aztec High School, he attended San Juan College; Majoring in Business Administration.  He now resides in Farmington, New Mexico. He married his high school sweetheart Betty and recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. He has two beautiful daughters; Ericka and Athena; as well as three wonderful grandchildren; Alexander, Alice, and Keisto. 

Most Excellent Companion VanEckhoutte toiled twenty-eight years in retail management before returning to school to complete EMS training. He has worked for Four Winds Recovery Center for the past eight years in several positions, and is now the Marketing Director and Safety Manager. He is once again returning to school to gain even more enlightenment; Majoring in Psychology to better serve the community. 

Most Excellent Companion VanEckhoutte began his Masonic journey January 2010 when he was initiated into Animas Lodge #15; being raised to Sublime Degree of Master Mason April 2010 and installed as Worshipful Master in 2015; dedicating his year to his late Grandfather who was also a member of Animas #15. He is an active member/officer of:  Animas Lodge #15, San Juan Lodge #25, Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine / San Juan Shrine Club - Ballut Abyad Temple,  Scottish Rite / Knights of St. Andrews Order of the Thistle  – Valley of Santa Fe, Farmington York Rite Bodies – Basin Chapter #19; Navajo Council #6; Shiprock Commandery #15, Order of the High Priesthood, Order of the Silver Trowel, Past Commanders Association, Knights of the York Cross of Honour – Priory #29, York Rite Sovereign College #145, Knight Masons – Enchantment Council #21, Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests – Mount of Olives #13, Red Cross of Constantine – Saint Sophia Conclave, Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis – New Mexico College, Order of the Eastern Star – Electa #13, DeMolay – James H. Gibson. Mast Excellent Companion VanEckhoutte is also an active member/officer of:  Grand Lodge of New Mexico – Junior Grand Steward, Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New Mexico – Most Excellent Grand High Priest, Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters – Grand Marshal, and Grand Commandery - Grand Captain General. Most Excellent Companion VanEckhoutte has also been the recipient of the following honors/awards: Distinguished Service Award in Bronze, Cryptic Mason of the Year, and Knights Templar Cross of Honor.  

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Biography Stephen A. Balke

Stephen A. Balke
Most Illustrious Grand Master

Stephen A. Balke, Grand Master of Royal and Select Masters of New Mexico

Stephen Andrew Balke was born September 17 1971, in Chicago, Illinois.  He moved to New Mexico in 1974 with his mother, Kathleen M. Balke. He has a half-sister, Jan, who lives in Illinois.  In 1997, he married Michele Carter; they now have, and are raising their five children in Estancia, New Mexico.

Stephen is a Business and Information Technology Consultant, Trainer, and Project Manager whose projects and engagements have afforded him much travelling and experience. He previously acted as both a Custom Course Developer and Trainer and Community Outreach Consultant for the University of New Mexico, a Business Analyst for the Department of Information Technology for the State of New Mexico, and most recently as a Consultant for Conway, Inc. and Site Selection Magazine, an economic development consultancy.

Brother Stephen's Masonic career began at Edgewood Lodge No. 82 in 2006. With MWB Ernie Hazelwood as his Coach, he learned many aspects of Masonry early in his Masonic experience and served as a Worshipful Master of Estancia Lodge No. 33 (2009); and is a Past Master (2011) and Past Secretary (2012 - 2016) of the Lodge of Research of New Mexico. He also maintains plural membership in Zia Daylight Lodge No. 77, where he currently serves as Senior Steward.

Right Worshipful Brother Stephen started his service to the Grand Lodge of New Mexico with his appointment by MWB David Baker as Editor of the New Mexico Freemason. While serving in this capacity, he was appointed Webmaster for the Grand Lodge web site (www.nmmasons.org) and, by MWB Gary Deck, to a seat on the Jurisprudence Committee, continuing in this service under MWB Bobby Arther. His tour on the Jurisprudence Committee ended in 2012, and MWB Josh Lightle placed Stephen on the Publications Committee and appointed him Senior Grand Steward. He served MWB William R. L. Childers as District Deputy Grand Master for the Fifth Masonic District in 2014. He continues to serve on the Technology Committee.

May of 2007 saw Brother Stephen's introduction to the York Rite of Freemasonry when he took the Degrees and Orders at the Albuquerque Festival and became a member of Rio Grande Chapter No. 4, Hiram Council No. 1, and Pilgrim Commandery No. 3. He has worked at Festivals, held Offices in the Albuquerque Bodies and has taught the classroom portion of the Degrees and Orders at several Albuquerque Festivals. In 2010, Companion and Sir Knight Stephen became a plural member of the Santa Fe Bodies and starting in 2011, he started serving in each of the bodies. He served as Eminent Commander of Santa Fe Commandery No. 1 in 2012, Excellent High Priest in 2013, and Illustrious Master in 2014.

Stephen has been invited to and joined many of the York Rite appendant and concordant bodies. In 2009, the Santa Fe Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine elected Knight Companion Balke to be installed. He proceeded to serve in most of the offices and then as Puissant Sovereign in 2016; he currently serves as Recorder. He is a member of the Allied Masonic Degrees in Eastern New Mexico Council No. 421. He was invited into the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitabus Foederatis (Masonic Rosicrucians), where he is currently serving as Second Ancient.  The York Rite Sovereign College (New Mexico College No. 145) invited him to become a member in 2010, and Stephen now serves as both the Chancellor and the College Degree Master and works with Lodges and York Rite Bodies in New Mexico to provide the Honorary Mark Master Mason Degree to Master Masons. Invited into membership of the Knight Masons in 2012, he now serves as Excellent Chief. The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests also extended a welcoming hand to Knight and Priest Balke and he currently serves as the Very Eminent Preceptor.

Brother Stephen and his son Sean were both inducted into the International Order of DeMolay at its 2012 Annual Convention. Brother Sean joined Mesa Chapter, while his father became one of the few Masons inducted into the Kit Carson Honorary Chapter, whose degrees are only given to a man over twenty-one who had not joined DeMolay as a youth. Recently, Sean has started working with Route 66 Chapter. Stephen is also the very proud parent of his daughters Ashley, Saoirse, and Anya, members of Ashlar Assembly No. 58 and Anya and Victoria, Pledge Members. Anya is a Past Pledge Sister and Ashley is twice a Past Worthy Advisor and currently serves as Grand Immortality. Recently, Saoirse, Anya and Victoria joined Bethel No. 2 of Jobs Daughters in Albuquerque and Ashley is working to become an advisor for the Bethel.

Stephen was appointed to the Grand York Rite lines by Sir Knight and Most Excellent Companion D.W. Winchester; as Grand Sword Bearer for the Grand Commandery of New Mexico in 2014 and as Grand Master of the First Veil in 2015. In 2016, Most Illustrious Companion Paul A. Brehm appointed him as the Grand Marshal of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of New Mexico. In 2017, Stephen was elected Deputy Grand Commander. On May 1st, Brother, Companion and Sir Knight James H. Rixon passed when he was Grand Commander and Stephen ascended to the position. It having been only three weeks into the Chivalric year, the Grand Master of the Grand Encampment adjudicated that this earned Stephen his official Past Grand Commander designation, and he was given said honors at the 2018 Sessions. February 28th of 2018, Raymond D. MacDonald also passed away, and as Stephen was serving as Scribe, he once again ascended to the head of the body. He served as Grand High Priest for almost two months. He is currently serving as Grand King for the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. He also currently works as Chair of the Technology Committee for the General Grand Council of Cryptic Masons International and as a member of the Western States Easter Observance Committee for the Grand Encampment.

On Thursday, April 19, 2018, Most Illustrious Companion Balke was elected Grand Master of Royal and Select Masters in New Mexico. As this was the first body of the Grand Sessions, he was actually head of all three of the Grand York Rite Bodies in New Mexico simultaneously for approximately one day. Stephen’s intention is to continue to serve York Rite as a Past Grand Commander, and is currently serving as Grand King for the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons.

Having lost both of his parents before he reached the age of forty, Brother Stephen has found that Freemasonry has, and continues to provide references, resources, and activities that help him be a better man, husband, and father. He is particularly grateful for the opportunities that encouraged a positive growth environment for his family. In his words, "I was told that you will get out of Masonry what you put in to it. I would argue that it gives you so much more. Even, or perhaps especially, when you're not aware of it.”

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Biography Stephen A. Balke GHP

Stephen A. Balke
Grand High Priest

01 GHP2

Stephen Andrew Balke was born September 17, 1971, in Chicago, Illinois.  He moved to New Mexico in 1974 with his mother, Kathleen M. Balke. He has a half-sister, Jan, who lives in Illinois.  In 1997, he married Michele Carter; they now have, and are raising their five children in Estancia, New Mexico.

Stephen is a Business and Information Technology Consultant, Trainer, and Project Manager whose projects and engagements have afforded him much travelling and experience. He previously acted as both a Custom Course Developer and Trainer and Community Outreach Consultant for the University of New Mexico, a Business Analyst for the Department of Information Technology for the State of New Mexico, and as a Consultant for Conway, Inc. and Site Selection Magazine, an economic development consultancy. Currently, Stephen is a Managing Partner of Decision Forward, LLC, a Principle in Studio Balke, and works as the General Grand Recorder for Cryptic Masons, International.

Brother Stephen's Masonic career began at Edgewood Lodge No. 82 in 2006. With MWB Ernie Hazelwood as his Coach, he learned many aspects of Masonry early in his Masonic experience and served as a Worshipful Master of Estancia Lodge No. 33 (2009); and is a Past Master (2011) and Past Secretary (2012 - 2016) of the Lodge of Research of New Mexico. He also maintains plural membership in Zia Daylight Lodge No. 77.

Right Worshipful Brother Stephen started his service to the Grand Lodge of New Mexico with his appointment by MWB David Baker as Editor of the New Mexico Freemason. While serving in this capacity, he was appointed Webmaster for the Grand Lodge web site (www.nmmasons.org) and, by MWB Gary Deck, to a seat on the Jurisprudence Committee, continuing in this service under MWB Bobby Arther. His tour on the Jurisprudence Committee ended in 2012, and MWB Josh Lightle placed Stephen on the Publications Committee and appointed him Senior Grand Steward. He served MWB William R. L. Childers as District Deputy Grand Master for the Fifth Masonic District in 2014.

May of 2007 saw Brother Stephen's introduction to the York Rite of Freemasonry when he took the Degrees and Orders at the Albuquerque Festival and became a member of Rio Grande Chapter No. 4, Hiram Council No. 1, and Pilgrim Commandery No. 3. He has worked at Festivals, held Offices in the Albuquerque Bodies and has taught the classroom portion of the Degrees and Orders at several Albuquerque Festivals. In 2010, Companion and Sir Knight Stephen became a plural member of the Santa Fe Bodies and served in each of the bodies. He served as Eminent Commander of Santa Fe Commandery No. 1 in 2012, Excellent High Priest in 2013, and Illustrious Master in 2014.

In 2009, the Santa Fe Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine elected Knight Companion Stephen to receive its Degrees, and he is a Past Puissant Sovereign (2016) and currently serves as Recorder. He is a member of the Allied Masonic Degrees and was invited into the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitabus Foederatis (Masonic Rosicrucians), where he is currently serving as First Ancient.  The York Rite Sovereign College (New Mexico College No. 145) invited him to become a member in 2010, and Stephen is most recently a Past Governor. Invited into membership of the Knight Masons in 2012, he served as Excellent Chief in 2017. The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests also extended a welcoming hand to Bro. Balke and is a Past Eminent Preceptor. In 2018, the Knights of York Cross of Honor invited Knight Stephen Balke to join their ranks, and he is serving as Herald.

Brother Stephen and his son Sean were both inducted into the International Order of DeMolay at its 2012 Annual Convention. Brother Sean joined Mesa Chapter, while his father became one of the few Masons inducted into the Kit Carson Honorary Chapter, whose degrees are only given to a man over twenty-one who had not joined DeMolay as a youth. Recently, Sean has started working with Route 66 Chapter, and was elected and served as the Charter Treasurer. Stephen is also the very proud parent of his daughters Ashley, Saoirse, Anya, and Victoria, members of Ashlar Assembly No. 58. The young ladies are also serving as officers in Bethel No. 2, Jobs Daughters.

Stephen was appointed to the Grand York Rite lines by Sir Knight and Most Excellent Companion D.W. Winchester; as Grand Sword Bearer for the Grand Commandery of New Mexico in 2014 and as Grand Master of the First Veil in 2015. In 2016, Most Illustrious Companion Paul A. Brehm appointed him as the Grand Marshal of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of New Mexico. He is a Past Cryptic Grand Master from 2018 and a Past Grand Commander from 2017. He also currently works as Chair of the Technology Committee in addition to his position as General Grand Recorder for the General Grand Council of Cryptic Masons International and as a member of the Western States Easter Observance and Social Media Committees for the Grand Encampment.

On May 1, 2017, Right Excellent Companion James H. Rixon passed away in a traffic accident after just three short weeks as Grand King. On February 28, 2018, Most Excellent Grand High Priest Raymond D. MacDonald passed due to cancer. Stephen ascended and was installed Grand High Priest for the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New Mexico by Most Excellent Companions Dennis Detrow and Fred Kellogg on March 13, 2018. As this was just two months of service, Companion Stephen continued service in the Grand Chapter in 2018 and was elected Grand King. On April 12, 2019, The Companions of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New Mexico elected him Grand High Priest.

Having lost both of his parents before he reached the age of forty, Brother Stephen has found that Freemasonry has, and continues to provide references, resources, and activities that help him be a better man, husband, and father. He is particularly grateful for the opportunities that encouraged a positive growth environment for his family. In his words, "I was told that you will get out of Masonry what you put into it. I would argue that it gives you so much more. Even, or perhaps especially, when you're not aware of it.”

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