Global Ministries is saddened to learn of the death of William R. Booth

Global Ministries is saddened to learn of the death of William R. Booth

Rev. William Roberts Booth
May 9, 1919 – November 10, 2014

William (Bill) Booth, died November 10, 2014 after a full life, well lived.  He was born in York, Maine May 9, 1919 to a Congregational minister and a violin-playing (first violin, Portland Symphony) teacher.  Bill 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 in Animal Husbandry in 1941. 

William wanted to be an agricultural missionary – the Mission Board told him that he would need to have some theological tools to offer, so he enrolled in Hartford Theological Seminary where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity in 1945. While at Hartford, working as a janitor to pay for his education, he met the nursery school teacher, Zilpha.  They married in 1943, forming a partnership that would endure for a lifetime.

The Booths were missionaries in South Africa from 1947 to 1964, where two of their children, Elaine and Harold were born. While in South Africa Bill learned Zulu, and was principal and chief lecturer at a theological school for black ministers.  He was involved with negotiations which led to the establishment by four Protestant denominations of the Federal Theological Seminary.

The family returned to the States, and Maine where Bill was the minister to United Church of Christ congregations in Greenville and Rockwood, Associate Conference Minister, and the church in Bar Harbor where he was also a volunteer member and chaplain to the Bar Harbor Fire Department.  Shortly after their return to the States two more children, Jim and Hilary were born. 

Bill always enjoyed, and lived in, nature, believing that there was intrinsic good in all of God’s creation, and spent his life trying to find ways to live in harmony with it.  He learned animal-tracks as a boy and spent many hours in Portland’s Deering Woods.  He was a teenager during the depression, and learned many lessons in self-sufficiency, growing and preserving vegetables for food, integrity, and compassion as he watched his father in ministry during that time. 

Their son Jim was born with ‘diffuse brain damage’ and Bill and Zipha educated themselves, and became fierce advocates for the mentally retarded, co-founding Down East Horizons, participating on many State-level committees advocating for the mental retarded, and earning the first David D. Gregory Community Inclusion Award from the Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services. 

After Bill retired, he took a Master Gardener course with the University of Maine, and was a Master Gardener Volunteer, co-designing and building a woodland garden – complete with a handicapped-accessible boardwalk – at BirdsAcre, a bird sanctuary 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. 

William Booth 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 Harold Booth and his 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 was held at the Ellsworth Congregational Church on November 22, 2014.  Condolences may be sent to Mr. Harold Booth, 50 Winthrop St.  #1, Hallowell, ME  04347-1255.  Memorial gifts may be directed to the Hilary Liscomb Memorial Fund with the Maine Community Foundation, 245 Main St., Ellsworth ME 04605, which Bill Booth established and endowed in appreciation of the way that Native American Peoples have lived in harmony with the land for 10,000 years.  The Fund benefits the Culture and Historic Preservation Department of the Penobscot Indian Nation.