William's Story

BAR HARBOR - My Dad, William Booth, died November 10, 2014 in Bar Harbor after a full life, well lived. He was born in York, Maine, May 9, 1919 to a Congregational minister and his violin-playing teacher wife. He spent his childhood in the parsonages of a series of churches in southern Maine, graduating from Fryeburg Academy in 1937. He graduated from the University of Maine College of Agriculture [Animal Husbandry] in 1941.

He wanted to be an agricultural missionary - the Peace Corps would have been perfect. The Mission Board required some theology, so he earned a Bachelor of Divinity in 1945 from Hartford Seminary- he found theology and the ministry much more attractive than farming, although he has almost always had a garden. While there, he met my mother, Zilpha. They married in 1943, a lifetime partnership.

They were missionaries in South Africa from 1947 to 1964, where my sister, Elaine and I were born. They returned to the States, and Maine where Dad was the minister to United Church of Christ congregations in Greenville and Bar Harbor. He was also Associate Conference Minister for 5 years.

Trying to sum up my Dad's life in a few words is an impossible task. He has always enjoyed, and lived in, nature, believing that there was intrinsic good in all of God's creation. He spent his life trying to find ways to live in harmony with it. He was a teenager during the depression, and learned many lessons in self-sufficiency, integrity, and compassion as he watched his father in ministry during that time.

Undersized as a boy, he always tested the limits of his abilities as he grew to robust adulthood - mountains were for climbing. A blizzard - where are the snow-shoes? As he approached retirement, he purchased a decrepit farm-house, and rebuilt it to provide a comfortable home.

While in South Africa he learned Zulu, and was principal and chief lecturer at a theological school for black ministers

My brother Jim was born with 'diffuse brain damage'. My folks educated themselves, and became fierce advocates for the mentally retarded, co-founding DownEast Horizons, earning the Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services' first David D. Gregory Community Inclusion Award for their work on State committees.

After Dad retired, he took a Master Gardener course and was a Volunteer, co-designing and building a woodland garden at BirdsAcre in Ellsworth. He was the author of three published volumes of poetry with the major subjects being the natural world and inter-personal relationships - especially family.

Dad was constantly looking for the good in things. He had a gentle, dry, self-depreciating humor, and was the ultimate pragmatist. When life presented a challenge he would asses it carefully, then plot his course based on that assessment - modifying as needed.

He was predeceased by his parents, Henrietta and Harold Booth, his younger brother, George, his daughter, Hilary Liscomb, and his life partner, Zilpha. He is survived by his children: Elaine Roy and her husband, Paul of Winslow, James Booth of Bowdoinham, and me, Harold and my husband, Daniel Kelley of Hallowell. Grandchildren: Steven Booth and wife, Jillian of Wayne, Helen Booth and partner, Jermaine Wilson of Gray, Amanda and husband, Zachary Ovington of Auburn, Joshua Mooers of North Whitefield, and many great-grandchildren. In addition, there are many nieces and nephews, an in-law or two, and many close friends around the world.

A service in celebration of his life will be held at the Ellsworth Congregational Church [2 Church St] on November 22 at 1 p.m. If you wish to make a memorial donation, we suggest the Hilary Booth Liscomb Memorial Fund with the Maine Community Foundation [245 Main St., Ellsworth ME 04605], which he established and endowed in appreciation of the way that Native American Peoples have lived in harmony with the land for 10,000 years - one of Dad's lifelong goals. The Fund benefits the Natural Resources Department of the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Hamba kahle [Zulu: 'travel well'] Dad, I will miss you - we all will.
Published in Bangor Daily News
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