The Cactus Interview

Al Zahn
El Riad Shrine 2020 Potentate

Hometown: Worthing, S.D. When I left the population was less than 400 and now it’s over 1,000. While living there I was a member of the Volunteer Fire Department, charter member of the Jaycees, volunteer and supporter of the Old Town Theater and a Past Master of Worthing Lodge #141.

What keeps you in Sioux Falls? This is home. Sioux Falls is a great community and offers so many things to do and to be part of. And we have in our community three Masonic Lodges, a Scottish Rite temple and the El Riad Shrine. Yeah…this is home.

Who was your Masonic sponsor and why did you become a Master Mason? My Masonic sponsor was Robert Jones. He left this area several years ago and I have lost track of him and his family. Besides Bob, I did know several Master Masons and they were all highly respected in the community. I thought I would try it and see if it was something I liked.

Who was your Shrine sponsor and why did you become a Shriner? Robert Jones was also my sponsor into the Shrine. I did know a family with a child that was a Shrine patient so I was aware of the philanthropy. But it was the fun part that convinced me to become a Shriner.

What is your favorite part of being a Masonic Shriner? Being a part of something bigger than me. Being able to give back and having fun doing it. Totally enjoying the brotherhood of being a Mason/Shriner. Being able to see the good that we are doing.

What units and clubs have you been and/or currently are a member? The first unit I joined was the Korner Kops, this unit was dissolved years ago. I am currently on the Circus Committee and part of the Gophers and Corn. I was Circus Chairman in 2007 and 2008, Director General in 2014, and joined the Divan in 2011. I also am a current member of the Horse Corps, Classie Autos and Hillbillies.

Why did you accept the position of Divan and then Potentate for our shrine? When I was first asked to join the Divan, I turned it down. Between work and family, it would definitely be a challenge. The next year I was asked again and I felt this would be my last opportunity. I said yes. Having so much fun in what the Shrine offered me already I was ready for new challenges. My family agreed and supported me. As a member of the Divan, I was able to meet many Shriners, visit the Units and listen to them as they planned their year. The El Riad is so blessed to have so many GREAT SHRINERS. The Divan years that prepared me to someday be a Potentate was a great journey with a lot of fun. To be the Potentate of the El Riad, I felt I was ready. The members of the El Riad work very hard to keep our Temple moving forward and they were not going to let me screw that up. I am very proud to be a member of the El Riad and I thank the members for what they do and for allowing me to join them.

What was your favorite thing about being the El Riad Shrine Potentate? Unfortunately, 2020 was not a good year to be a Potentate. What was really good were the Units that still made things happen. Having meetings using Zoom, meeting at other locations with room to social distance, doing a drive by and calling to check on the welfare of other Mason/Shriners, family, friends and neighbors. Our office staff that took on extra duties and kept things going. Shriners doing what they could as safely as possible.  

What was your largest challenge as El Riad Shrine Potentate? The biggest challenge was Covid-19. Other challenges were keeping our Shrine united, making decisions that were not favorable to all, not being able to have a Spring or Fall Ceremonial, Imperial Session in Kansas City and MSA Summer Session in Regina, Canada and not being able to properly present Noble James Hoy the honor of naming the Ceremonial in his name.

What were you most excited to accomplish? I can’t take credit for any accomplishments. What happened in 2020 only happened because of the members of this Shrine. Sometimes two units working together, sometimes several. We did sneak in a drive by parade in a city that frowns on Shrine parades. There again it was the members who made this happen. 

How did First Lady Du feel about her Shrine year? Lady Du from the beginning knew she was going to need help. Thank you to the ladies from past and present divan who volunteered to help. When Covid hit, Lady Du had an unhappy experience where some people that voiced their opinion about her being allowed in public. Lady Du took this to heart and stepped back hard. Thank you to Lady Gloria Kruse for filling in.

Describe El Riad Shrine in five words: 


Commitment: Our commitment to provide the best possible care to our Shrine patients with little or no cost to them.


Camaraderie: Being a Mason/Shriner words cannot describe the camaraderie. Get involved and it will happen.


Love: The love for our family, our Shrine, community and brotherhood of a Mason/Shriner.


Family: It doesn’t matter if you’re from a large or small family. Once you get involved as a Mason/Shriner your family just got bigger.


Fun: Get involved, join a unit or start a new one. Then if you’re not having fun come and see me.

Where do you see El Riad Shrine in five years? As the El Riad moves into the future we will be fine. The year 2020 taught us that no matter how well prepared we think we are…well here comes Covid. All of us wish we could see into the future. If we could have seen Covid coming…well who knows. I don’t recall which Past Potentate first said, “WE ARE THE EL RIAD” and we will be fine. 

What would you tell shriners and their families about joining our family, fraternity and philanthropy? I believe that all people have a need to belong to something. There are many great organizations out there, but Masonry is the oldest and the Shrine not far behind. Being a Mason/Shriner is the one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I highly recommend it. 

What else would you like to share with our Cactus readers? First, I want to thank everyone for allowing me to be the Potentate of this great temple. As the Past Potentate of the El Riad Shrine 2020, myself and all 2020 Potentates have been labeled as the “Pandemic Pote”. Covid took control of our world and for awhile we were helpless. As Mason/Shriners, family, friends and neighbors became ill and some passed away we all felt the pain that Covid brought to us all. It’s a new year and time to move on. As I left office, I shared these words with the Divan, “Don’t ever lose your desire to TAKE THE EXTRA STEP.”  As we continue to move forward into 2021, Imperial Sir Potentate James Smith and our Potentate Les Kruse have asked us to “HAVE FUN IN 21.”  Together let’s do that, together let’s support our Potentate Les Kruse and the Divan. WE ARE THE El RIAD SHRINE.