The board, staff and supporters of the Presbyterian Home for Children are mourning the recent passing of Rev. Benjamin Stephen Booth, who was the Home’s president from 1981 until his retirement in 2001.
Booth died at his home in Mentone on Nov. 21 at the age of 89. Before he became the Talladega Home’s tenth president, he served pastorates in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Virginia as a Presbyterian minister PC(USA) and was executive director of the Presbyterian Children’s Home of the Highlands in Virginia. His calling to serve children and youth in need in a residential setting began when he worked as a houseparent at the Ward Home for Children in the 1960s.
When Booth’s parents married, they moved from Concord, Virginia to Leechburg, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from Leechburg High School in 1952. After serving in the U.S. Army, he graduated from Grove City College, the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and eventually earned his Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of West Alabama in Livingston.
He had a strong interest in aviation and logged 6,000 hours of flight time and earned several pilot ratings. He passed on that knowledge as a flight instructor at Isbell Field Airport in Fort Payne.
“Perhaps it was his years as an airplane pilot that gave Rev. Ben Booth his laser focus on higher callings and purposes,” Doug Marshall, current president and CEO of the Home, said. “His presidency brought a constant stream of innovative ideas, outreach to Presbyterian churches across the state and expanding ministry to match the demands and limitations of the times.”
“Major renovations across campus were completed, and many of the premier ministries of the Home, including what is now Ascension Leadership Academy and the Thrift Store, were launched during his presidency,” Marshall said.
Ascension Leadership Academy features a fully Cognia-accredited academic curriculum focusing on academics and leadership for the Home’s residential children and youth in addition to children and youth from the community. It is located at First Presbyterian Church of Talladega on North Street East.
The Thrift Store opened on the Home’s campus in 1985. It now operates from a 20,000-square-foot storefront in Northgate Shopping Center, featuring gently used clothing, furniture and other items donated from throughout the state to generate income for the Home while providing work training for the Home’s residents.
Booth is survived by Susan, his wife of almost 50 years, who worked with the Home’s music program and toured the state’s Presbyterian churches with children to present music programs and generate support for the Home.
Marshall said, “The Presbyterian Home for Children and the children and youth served by the Home mourn the passing of Rev. Ben Booth. He was so loved by our alumni. We are indebted to both him and Susan for their tremendous love of children and youth in need and their steadfast devotion to the Home and its ministry.”
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at First Presbyterian Church of Fort Payne, Alabama, at 2 p.m. with visitation beginning at noon.
The family has requested that donations be made to the charity of your choice.