Obituary: Henry ‘Hank’ Mills Booth

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5/24/1946 – 7/7/2023
Lawrence, Kansas

Henry “Hank” Mills Booth was born on May 24, 1946, in Lawrence, Kansas to Arden and Elizabeth Booth. He was a loving father and grandfather, dedicated community leader, and beloved radio personality. He will be remembered for his heart and his voice, both of which he shared with his community generously, and with love.

An older brother to Elizabeth “Bette” Booth, Hank grew up attending schools in Lawrence and Baldwin. His father Arden put the radio station KLWN on the air in 1951, starting a family business that Hank would grow up around and become an integral part of. Hank’s first show on the air was at age 14 on KLWN. He was a proud Chesty Lion in the Class of 1964 and in high school, he played football and was involved in student government. After graduation, he briefly attended the University of Maryland and the University of Kansas before enlisting in the US Army Reserves.

Hank met his future wife Susan “Sue” Booth (Shumate) out dancing in Wichita, Kansas in 1970. They were married on December 22nd, 1971, in Wichita. Hank, Sue, and son Andrew “Andy” Glenn Booth moved to White Sands Missile Range when Hank was stationed there shortly after the wedding. After a brief time in the Southwest, the family returned to Lawrence so Hank could manage KLWN while his father served in the state senate. They planted roots and welcomed two daughters, Amy Elizabeth in 1974, and Rebecca Amber in 1977.

From the time he moved to Lawrence, Hank’s voice was everywhere. For five decades, Hank hosted his daily radio show, according to the Record. From his KLWN studio and from remote set ups in every corner of town, Hank announced births and deaths, interviewed community members, and emceed the comings and goings of everyday life. With Hank, everything was a celebration. He loved to hear about the little beautiful moments in people’s lives and he shared many of his family’s on the air, from the birth of each of his grandchildren to the joys and tribulations of marital life.

Beyond the show, Hank had a decorated career in broadcasting. Hank served as the Kansas Association of Broadcasters (KAB) President, was named KAB Broadcaster of the Year in 1981, and was given the KAB Distinguished Service Award in 1990. Among Hank’s proudest achievements was his time as the voice of the Kansas Jayhawks, serving as the PA announcer in Allen Fieldhouse and what was then Memorial Stadium. The job, as well as his time as the voice of the KU Marching Jayhawks, combined two of his great loves: broadcasting and the Hawks. Back at KLWN, he mentored a generation of the radio industry and was an engine behind 105.9 The Lazer, an iconic local alternative music station in the 1990s.

Hank’s love of Lawrence and love of broadcasting came together in the press box of Lawrence High football games–he was the voice of the Lawrence High Lions for more than 50 years. In a recent interview, an LHS administrator said what so many players and families knew–Hank was “part of what makes Lawrence High, Lawrence High”. Upon his retirement, the school and the team honored him with a monogrammed chair that his successor will inherit.

While broadcasting was Hank’s job, loving Lawrence and the people who live here became his calling. There was rarely a board or community event he wasn’t involved with in some way. He served as either president or chairman of the Lawrence Chamber, the Lawrence United Fund, KU William Allan White Foundation, Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, the Leadership Kansas Program, Lawrence Junior Achievement, Independence Days, the Swarthout Society and Volunteers in Court. He was a proud friend of 4-H, mentoring 4Hers that included his children and grandchildren, emceeing the county fair livestock auction, and presenting the Arden Booth Good Manners Award every year at the county fair. Hank helped start a seventh-grade football program in Lawrence schools, helped get the Ryan Gray Playground constructed, and once ran for county commissioner. He was involved with Cottonwood, the United Way, Lawrence Schools Foundation, Visiting Nurses Association, the Ballard Center, Festival of Trees, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Friends of Theater (FROTH) at KU, and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

Hank’s contributions did not go unrecognized. He was recognized as an outstanding Rotarian, won the Lawrence Kiwanis Club’s Substantial Citizen Award in 2002, received an award for supporting Haskell University, was inducted into the Lawrence High Hall of Fame in 1999, and was named Lawrencian of the Year in 2014.

Outside of the professional arena, Hank also pursued his more eclectic joys. He was a firework aficionado and storm chaser throughout his life. As a teenage entrepreneur he ran several fireworks stands and his family often had to call him in off the porch and into the basement when he got drawn in watching a storm. He loved to eat raw green onions dipped in salt, rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream, and pork rinds. He never learned to roller skate or water ski but was known to get a workout watching a KU basketball game, whether by polishing shoes or pacing. He cherished his summer vacations with his family at the Lake of the Ozarks and was always happy behind the wheel of his boat.

A mentor to many, Hank was a friend to even more. He was generous, kind, and big-hearted. He lived brightly–you always knew when Hank was in a room, and he always made you feel seen and appreciated. To his grandchildren, he was “Boppo”, larger than life and always ready with a hug. As a father and grandfather, he instilled in his family his spirit of service, a deep-seated love of community, and a compassionate generosity that led them into careers in medicine and mental health care, education, and public service.

Hank passed away on July 7th after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Sue, his children Andy and Amy, his daughter in law Kim, and grandchildren and great grandchildren Kyle (Liz), Victoria, Kennedy, Chloe, Boo, Truman, Brian, and Chase. He was preceded in death by his parents and daughter Becca. A celebration of life will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church on Thursday, July 13th at 2 PM and the family asks that attendees wear Lawrence High or KU gear. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation of any size to the Douglas County 4-H Foundation or the Lawrence Schools Foundation Early Childhood Program.

The echo of Hank’s voice hangs in the air along the holiday parade routes and in the stadiums throughout the community he loved. While he may no longer be behind a mic in Lawrence, those who knew and loved him will take heart to know that he will always be on the air, a strong and distinct voice in the beloved memories of thousands of Lawrence residents.

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