Friendships often are forged in Masonry but very few are as strong and long-lasting as that of Ursula Monroe and Nellie McCool, both Brothers of the 33rd Degree and members of the Supreme Council of the Honorable Order of Universal Co-Masonry. “We met in a book store in Colorado Springs,” Monroe recalled during a recent joint interview.
Their friendship now is in its fifth decade. The two, pictured above with McCool on the left and with Bro. Olimpia Sandoval in the center, have remained close since they regularly attend Lodge and various Masonic functions together. They also live across the hall from each other in separate apartments in the same building in Castle Rock, Colorado, very near the Order’s headquarters in Larkspur.
“Friendships in Freemasonry are some of the strongest you will find,” McCool said.
Monroe was born on June 28th, 1919 in Berlin, Germany. She earned her degree in Philosophy and became a college professor. Unfortunately, she, as did many, suffered greatly during World War II.
McCool was born January 25th, 1922 in Lahunta, Oklahoma, and she grew up in Beaver, Oklahoma and Colorado Springs, Colorado with her older brother, Harry McCool.
Shortly after graduating from high school, with the United State’s entry into World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, both McCool siblings became aviators.
Nellie McCool received her aviation training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, where she was among the Class 44-7-Trainees and became a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), achieving the rank of Captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
“Our motto was ‘We live in the wind and sand…and our eyes are on the stars,” McCool recalled.
Ursula’s life took a turn shortly after the war was over. “I married a G.I.,” she recalled. Her marriage to Clifford Monroe brought her to the U.S. and also gave her that first brush with Freemasonry. “My husband was a Freemason,” she said. “I supported him in that. I didn’t know much about it then. I thought it was only for men.”
Through the years, Monroe also indulged a love for travel and experiences. In 1969, she was adopted by the Sioux Red Cloud Clan tribe at Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota in honor of her translation into German a book about one of their Chiefs: Chief Eagle. She was given the name “Pte Sanaki Napewin,” which translates into English as “She who brings out white buffalo cow.”
“I used to love to travel,” she said with a laugh. “Now I’m too lazy.” She earned her Ph.D. in English and was a professor in the department of Humanities at Colorado College until she retired.
McCool’s life also changed after World War II ended. The WASPs were disbanded, and McCool soon found herself back in school. She attended Colorado College, majoring in Psychology. She later earned her Ph.D. in the field. She became a teacher at several Colorado-area schools, including North Junior High, South Security School, and Harrison Senior High School. Later, she was supervisor of Vocational Guidance for the State Board of Community Colleges and Occupational Education.
Monroe’s life took yet another turn in 1972 when her husband died. A few years after that, she met an associate of Manly P. Hall. That associate introduced her to Co-Freemasonry, though it was not her first understanding of the Craft.
“I was always interested,” Monroe said. “I had to make that first contact. You have to be around Freemasons and know Freemasons before you can become a Freemason.”
She did just that in 1979, Initiated on April 14th of that year in Lodge Amor-Sapientia in Pasadena, California. She was Passed the following 12th of August and then Raised on the 3rd of August 1980. She became Master of Kiva Lodge in Colorado Springs. On November 16th, 1998, she became a member of the Supreme Council and serves on that body today.
It was a few years after Monroe was made a Mason that she had that fateful meeting with McCool in a Colorado Springs-area book store. “It turned out we were living in the same area,” Monroe said.
The friendship blossomed from there. It wasn’t long after that Monroe introduced McCool to Co-Freemasonry. McCool was intrigued enough to go have a look at the Order’s headquarters in Larkspur, about an hour from her home then in Colorado Springs. “I drove there and had a look at the building,” she said. “It just felt right.”
She certainly was interested, McCool said. “I was very excited,” she said. “I was happy to have found a Masonry that accepted women as well as men.”
McCool was initiated soon after, and ever since, they have been Masonically together. If Monroe goes to a meeting, McCool does, too. If McCool does something related to Masonry, Monroe will be there, too. Brothers in the Order see the two as inseparable, where one turns up the other will soon follow.
Both took part in the funeral of then Grand Commander Helen Wycherly in May of 1993 at the Headquarters Temple in Larkspur. Monroe was Orator that day while McCool was Junior Deacon. Today, both serve on the Orders’ Supreme Council. McCool also became a member of the Order’s Grand Council of Administration when she succeeded John Tzaras, who passed to the Grand Lodge Eternal on October 23, 2009.
“It’s a way of life,” McCool said. “I can no longer imagine not being a Mason.”