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Life of service touched many

I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to Richard Booth last week. In fact, I felt like I had really just gotten to know him. There was so much more I could learn from his examples. I knew of Richard previously, but I had only really come to know him over the last few years.
I think the first connection I had was upon accepting the position as publisher of The Erwin Record. Richard sent an email congratulating me and telling me how pleased he was that I had gotten the job and he thought I would do well with it. That meant a lot to me then, but it meant even more after I got to know the remarkable man those words came from.
I joined the Erwin Kiwanis Club, where Richard had been a member for years. Soon afterward, he would become president and I would get to see his amazing leadership skills first hand. He was involved in every project going and coming and not only worked on the local level but occasionally attended international and district events as well. He was instrumental in the work and completion of the children’s park along the Erwin Linear Trail. Just as with everything, Richard started with an agenda and goals to strive for. He wanted to see club membership grow. He started a buddy system between members to call and check on someone in their absence.
Richard was a natural speaker. I never questioned him or had any doubts of his abilities. If Richard was in charge, you knew it would get done and that he had researched and planned the best way to get it done.
Richard didn’t stop after his presidency. He still remained active and passionate about the many Kiwanis programs. In fact, his latest effort was for the Eliminate Project, which is a joint effort with Kiwanis and UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. Week after week, he stood up at the noon Kiwanis Club meetings and made his plea for members to donate to the worthy cause.
Richard was a worker and dedicated right on up to the end. In fact, last Tuesday, he was at the club meeting. This was just a day and a half before having surgery.
Richard’s level of intelligence seemed to far exceed mine. Of course that was to be expected with a degree in chemical engineering and a 46-year term of employment with NFS. But all of that high level of thinking and processing didn’t keep Richard from finding a common ground to talk with anyone and make them feel special.
Although my admiration for Richard started with his Kiwanis Club leadership, my true connection with him came when I attended Erwin Presbyterian Church. My first Sunday, I remember Richard greeting me with a handshake and a warm welcome. In fact, I felt so comfortable and at ease around him that I chose a seat behind he and his wife Nancy and that is where I have been ever since. I always figured if I was following behind Richard I couldn’t go wrong. I joined the church within that year and continued to be amazed at the involvement, leadership and heartfelt love Richard had for Erwin Presbyterian Church.
I had the honor of serving with him on the Pastor Nominating Committee as we sought to find our current minister. At the time the task seemed lengthy but now I’m thankful for every week that we got to meet as a group and the bond that we established. Richard would come with his detailed notes and charts where he kept track of the possible candidates. Through church dining-out groups, I have shared meal after meal with he and Nancy. Richard always took time to bless the meal and offer thanks for the opportunity to socialize with friends. But then, I always found his prayers to be uplifting just as it was being in his presence. His faithfulness became an unwavering example to me.
While serving on the church session board, I have seen his attention to detail with the budget. His cautious stewardship of the money. His sharp investment skills have netted the church much beyond the original means.
When I think of Richard, I see passion for whatever he took on. He always researched, knew his gut feeling and stood strong on his decisions. He was authoritative in getting things done and we all listened with confidence when he spoke. I have been astounded by his knowledge in teaching Sunday school and the amount of research he did to prepare. Richard was the type of person that was hard to say no to. I know that myself, as I tried each time he would approach me to teach Sunday school. He would always look ahead on the calendar to make sure each date was taken care of. It didn’t do any good for me to have plans. He would just look ahead to the next available space and question me about teaching then. But that was Richard, always looking out for the needs of the church.
Richard didn’t do things to bring honor to himself. He did them out of passion and love for his clubs, his church and the community. In fact, Richard probably wouldn’t see that I should make a fuss over him here.
I had the honor of having Richard and Nancy in my home during Christmas as I hosted the Sunday school class gathering. I understand that Richard wasn’t feeling well then. He was never one to let his problems interfere with what was at hand or on the agenda.
Richard found out he had cancer of the liver that could not be battled with treatments. With an excellent doctor and a hopeful chance, he entered surgery last Thursday. The cancer was far worse than the doctor had foreseen. Not only is there an empty place in the pew in front of me at church now, but there is an empty place in the lives of all those who knew Richard Booth.
His leadership was strides ahead of most. All I can do is follow the paths he left as an example. Knowing Richard as I know him now, he probably has a spreadsheet in front of him and is assisting God at this very moment charting the efforts of us all and how we can be more productive. As Nancy told me last Friday, “Richard went to sleep and woke up with the Lord.” Just as Richard welcomed me that first Sunday, I feel like he has been welcomed by a much bigger congregation for his lifetime of service to his Lord and to others, as he hears the words “Well done.”