ARMSTRONG – Lester Lee "Leck" Booher, a lifelong resident of Armstrong, went to meet his Savior on Friday (Jan. 4, 2013) at the venerable age of 95.
He was born July 16, 1917, at home, to Charles Newell and Mary Ann Obenland Booher.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Charles, Harold and Glen Booher, and sisters Louise Booher Cannon and Mary Ruth Booher Miller.
He is survived by a sister, Ruby Booher Winnett of Livonia, Mich.; brother-in-law, Charles Cannon of Armstrong; sister-in-law, Jane Booher of Pitcairn, Pa.; 10 nieces and nephews; numerous great- and great-great nieces and nephews, along with countless cousins.
Leck grew up during the Great Depression. He contributed to the family resources by tending the garden and orchard with his siblings, hunting and fishing, operating a newspaper route and helping with the Booher Brothers' Carnival amusement rides and novelties, owned and operated by his father and uncles. He also worked harvests for a neighboring farmer.
Upon graduation from Armstrong Township High School, he was employed doing township road construction and also on several local public works projects which included a much-needed, extensive cleanup of the Partlow Cemetery. Eventually, he was hired as a janitor and bus driver for the Armstrong High School.
Pvt. Lester L. Booher joined the Army during World War II in 1942 and served in the 9th Infantry in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Germany. He was extremely proud of his military service to the United States of America. He often entertained family members and friends with songs he'd learned along the way, humorous war stories and close-call experiences from his soldier days.
After he was discharged from the Army in 1945, Mr. Booher immediately resumed his job as a janitor and bus driver, returning to work still wearing his Army uniform. He was well-loved by generations of high school students for his patience and sharp sense of humor.
He often drove ball players and fans to out-of-town games and sometimes took groups on field trips to Springfield and Chicago. During one occasion, he diverted a busload of students on his route at the last minute to avoid the path of an oncoming tornado. He seldom went anywhere in public where he didn't see someone who knew him from his days working at the school.
He was devoted to his family. He spent years helping care for his invalid father and was primary caregiver for his mother in her later life. He was a favorite uncle among his nieces and nephews and was godfather for his great-niece Laura. His great-niece Lyla remembers that he bought crayons, just to have for whenever she came to visit him. He always had time to listen, laugh at a joke, help with a project, take someone shopping and hand out a dollar or two.
Lester frequently adopted stray or abandoned animals and provided wonderful care and medical treatment to them. Once while on his school bus route, he brought home a family member's dog that was lost in the country.
He raised bees, as did his father and grandfather, and was a member of the Illinois Beekeepers Association. He was always willing to help other beekeepers learn the art; he also monitored 4-H projects and Boy Scout merit badge requirements for family members. He was often called upon to remove an unappreciated swarm of bees from someone's orchard or shrubbery.
Mr. Booher was a lifelong member of the Armstrong United Methodist Church. He also enjoyed the events and activities of the Armstrong Centennial/American Bicentennial activities in 1976 when his mother was recognized as being the oldest living resident of Armstrong.
He was well-liked within the community and was always willing to help if he could. On one occasion, he extinguished an accidental fire and prevented a neighbor's garage from burning down. He contributed to every charity, church or school fundraiser that he encountered and was sympathetic to everyone, including total strangers.
He retired from his job in 1979, and he continued following St. Louis Cardinals baseball and University of Illinois basketball, maintaining his home, gardening and raising bees, along with spending time with family members. His mother was a nursing home resident for approximately five years; during those years, he only missed visiting her a total of three days.
For many years, Leck was hired to dig graves in the Partlow Cemetery and was also honored to serve as pallbearer for friends and family, too frequently to count. He was a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Throughout his adult life, he participated in numerous Memorial Day commemorations. Leck was still able to attend the 2012 service at the local cemetery, where he still sat up and saluted proudly. He also celebrated his 95th birthday with nieces, cousins and other relatives in July 2012.
In 2009, Leck became a resident of the Gifford Country Health Nursing Home, but his heart and spirit still lived in the same two-story home where he was born and raised in the northwest corner of Armstrong.
Visitation will be at the Wolfe-Blurton Funeral Home, Potomac, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, and from 9 to 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. A memorial service will commence at 10 a.m. Friday at the funeral home. Burial will follow in the Partlow Cemetery, south of Armstrong, with military recognition included.
Please send memorials to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or the America Legion. Condolences may be offered to the family at www.wolfeblurtonfuneralhome.com.