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Obituary: Clark Booth -- husband, father, grandfather, colleague

By Father Robert M. O'Grady Pilot Staff
Posted: 8/3/2018

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Clark Booth Pilot file photo

Although he had been in declining health, his death on July 27 was nonetheless a surprise to many of us, especially as he liked to calls us "the knights of the keyboard" his colleagues in the media.

Clark Booth always tried to make things easy for us in life and so also in death; and so he provided his own obituary. This one borrows freely from that one.

Born in Boston on March 21, 1939 he was one of the five children of the late Russell and Trudie (Elmore) Booth. His family bounced around Boston and her suburbs Arlington, Weymouth, Norwell and back to Weymouth where he was graduated from its high school in 1956; he worked for a year in a sneaker factory before entering the class of 1961 of the College of the Holy Cross. With his eyes and heart set on a career in journalism he majored in English and double minored in history and philosophy. Regular readers of his columns appreciate his grasp of history and his thoughtful commentary often drawing on his philosophy studies. He was immensely proud of his alma mater; though he did cringe at the recent kerfuffle regarding the college's nickname and mascot. He just could not figure how you keep the name but not the mascot.

After graduation he did basic training for the United States Army and served for six years in the Reserves, years that encompassed some of the escalation of the Vietnam conflict and the attendant civil discord in the United States.

His first job as a reporter was with the then Quincy Patriot Ledger; he subsequently moved seamlessly into the relatively new medium of television, recruited by WBZ he worked there for ten years, followed by a quarter century at WCVB. Named the station's first "Special Correspondent" he saw 'CVB rise in local and national prominence, dubbed by The New York Times as "maybe the finest television station in America." He would demure but it was in no small part his contributions as he was set free literally to roam the state, country and world.

Most of us rightly relish his sports casting and writing, but he really honed his talents in reporting on politics, religion, culture and international affairs. He loved it all.

If you asked about his favorites, read his reply: "Favorites included: Six National Political Conventions, ten Presidential campaigns, two Papal Elections, four Papal visits to the US and Canada, two Roman Consistories and a Synod of Bishops, 12 World Series, three Super Bowls, 20 Stanley Cup Playoff festivals, three stints in Northern Ireland covering 'the Troubles', the Fall of the Iron Curtain (1989-'90), Cuba under Castro, an extended study of the Catholic Church in America, and another of the Royal Family in England. He was also writer and narrators of dozens of documentaries and news specials on a wide and diverse range with the favorites including programs on New England Literary Masters, Remembrances of World War II featuring Historian William L. Shirer, the lingering grip of America's Civil War, and the rowdy History of the Boston Garden. For nine years Booth also moderated a weekly public affairs TV program, "In Good Faith', which brought a religious perspective to the weekly glut of current events. In his senior years he served as chief writer for a Boston College based television documentary team called 'Etoile", focusing on conflict resolution in international trouble spots and producing programs on South Africa, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, East Africa, the Sicilian Mafia, the Russian Gulag. In keeping with a lifelong interest in the games America loves, he wrote a weekly column on sports for "The Pilot", weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, and "The Dorchester Reporter", for 43 years. For further amusement, he wrote a history of the Boston Bruins hockey team, his favorite."

To know Clark was to know a family man, a man of deep and enduring Roman Catholic faith, a man steeped in interests broader even than the list above; and a man who understood the significance and the limitations of America's sports' culture.

When I would call to chat with him I would say "Clark, it's Bob O'Grady." "Father Bob how are you?" He liked priests, he knew many of us: sins, warts and all. Inevitably he would ask about our current staff and of course "Pete" Conley and Joanie Carney. He reminisced about their days during the Pope St. John Paul II's 1979 visit to Boston; he was the virtual liaison between the "secular" media and the archdiocesan communications office, then headed by Father Peter Conley and his trusted second (well maybe first) in command, Joan Carney.

Chatting about local sports he much enjoyed and kept track of collegiate sports in the Boston area, especially the hockey and football programs, in that order. He was among the few remaining keyboard knights who sincerely believed that "student athletes" were precisely that: students and then athletes.

At the beginning of January this year he bade farewell to our readers, but at our request he also left the door open for possible occasional pieces on "matters of greater moment" to use a Jesuit phrase. That never came to pass. He did however use his personal influence and we now have Dick Flavin as a regular sports columnist. As Thomas Jefferson said of Benjamin Franklin on arriving in Paris to take over as American representative there when asked "So you, Mr. Jefferson, are here to take Mr. Franklin's place". To which in his southern gentlemanly fashion Jefferson said "No one can replace Mr. Franklin, I am simply his successor." Dick Flavin expressed similar sentiments on hearing of Clark's death.

In 1963 Clark met "on an enchanted evening" Anne Cowlin. Married in 1966 they lived subsequently in Reading for 30 years prior to their move in 1999 to New Smyrna Beach, Fla. They were parents of sons Scott, of New York City; Matthew, Apollo Beach, Fla.; and daughter Tracy Husbands of New Smyrna Beach. They had five "almost perfect" grandchildren: Alyssa, Paul, Christopher, Mara, and Lucy. Clark's sole and younger brother Russ predeceased him; his three sisters survive: Jacquelyn Splaine; Roberta Fuller and Cheryl Kirkman.

Clark's Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Sacred Heart Church in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. on Aug. 6, 2018. This has been his parish since arriving in Fla. almost 20 years ago. The Redemptorists staff the parish and Clark was always happy to have a native Bostonian or two among the Redemptorist staff; reminding him of Roxbury's "Mission Church". Interment will be private.