A Life Story: Robert Booth served as Chicago Heights Library Board president for 50 years
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com January 3, 2014 9:16PM
Robert Ward Booth | Supplied photo
Updated: February 6, 2014 6:42AM
Robert Ward Booth, a lawyer and business executive who served as president of the Chicago Heights Library District Board for 50 years, was a man who loved life and mystery novels and encouraged those around him to focus on the good in life.
Mr. Booth, 95, died Nov. 20. The library, the Rotary Club of Chicago Heights and First Presbyterian Church, where he was a member for nearly 80 years, were the priorities in his life, said his wife Elizabeth Booth. The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in October.
“He was a fine man, a good husband, father and grandfather,” she said. “He is walking in heaven now.”
Mr. Booth was an avid reader “up to the end,” said his daughter, Beth Poor, who is a library director in Indiana. “When I finished college and couldn’t find a job, he suggested I get a master’s degree in library science because I would probably have a good career. And I did.”
“He always told us, no matter what, to find something to be glad about each day, to find some good news of the day,” Poor said. “He enjoyed life, and he had a good full life.”
Mr. Booth moved to Chicago Heights when he was 4 years old, graduated from Bloom High School in 1935 and earned his law degree from the University of Illinois in 1941.
After serving as an Army Air Forces captain during World War II, he began his career with International Harvester in 1946 as a member of its law department and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, South America, India and Asia. In Russia during the Cold War, Mr. Booth helped to free an American citizen, an employee of International Harvester, who had been imprisoned.
In 1983, Mr. Booth became corporate vice president of law for International Harvester and was an officer and director for many Harvester subsidiaries.
He served on the city’s library board during the construction of the current library on 15th Street.
“He was at the library all the time, and such an avid reader that he wanted to keep going (as board president),” Poor said. “It just sort of made sense.”
No matter how much he traveled, Mr. Booth spent “quality time” with his family “so it never seemed like he was gone a lot,” she said.
Linda Lopez, head of tech services at the library, remembered Mr. Booth as being “just a great man all around.”
“He was awesome and always pleasant,” she said. “Mysteries were his thing. In later years, he would check out five or six at a time.”
In addition to his service with the library board and his church, Mr. Booth was past president of Jones Memorial Community Center in Chicago Heights, where his grandson now works. As a member of the Rotary Club, he was named an outstanding club member.
Mr. Booth also was a director of the Chicago Crime Commission and the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and served on advisory committees for the Civic Federation, University of Illinois College of Commerce, Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry and the Chicago-Kent College of Law.
He also was a member of the Chicago Heights, Olympia Fields and Tippecanoe country clubs, The Executive Club of Chicago and the International Club of Chicago.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Booth is survived by another daughter, Barbara Goesel, three grandsons and three great-grandchildren. He is buried at Rest Haven/Presbyterian Cemetery in Chicago Heights.