Tom Booth

Tom Booth, an Arbutus native and prominent Catonville developer and businessman, died Monday at age 70. (September 12, 2012)

Tom Booth, who owned and developed many properties on Catonsville's Main Street of Frederick Road, died Sept. 10, 2012, of cancer. He was 70.

An Oct. 19 memorial Mass will be offered at St. Mark Catholic Church for the Catonsville resident, who donated his body to science.

A prominent businessman and developer in Catonsville who was named Catonsville Businessman of the Year in 1989 by the Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, the Arbutus native won many business and architectural awards for his work in revitalizing the business district in Catonsville and surrounding areas.

He also ran for state Senate in 1994.

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Noting that Booth worked in a low-key manner, James Mohler, a classmate at Mount St. Joseph High School and a business colleague, said, "He's never gotten the recognition of the phenomenal things he's done in Catonsville.

"He pulled off things others couldn't," said Mohler.

Mohler cited Booth's work with the Catonsville 2000 Committee, which began meeting in the mid-1980s to revitalize the Frederick Road corridor. Booth helped form partnerships that enabled the redevelopment of the Frederick Road business district, where Friendly's, PNC Bank, Chef Paolino Cafe and other commercial enterprises now stand, he said.

During public debates over streetscape improvements for Frederick Road in 1997, Booth backed the project, despite community concerns about the costs that would be required of business owners.

The project, he said, might require some costs but the improvements would improve Village profits in the long run, according to a Dec. 8, 1997, Catonsville Times article. "Some people don't understand what this is going to do for their business," he was reported as saying.

Booth was a big supporter of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, Mohler noted.

When the chamber wanted to hire its first executive director but didn't have the funds, Booth donated the money to hire a part-time director, Mohler said.

"It was the beginning of the chamber being what it is today," said Mohler, on the chamber, which now has more than 320 dues-paying members.

Booth began his career as a gas station owner, starting out with a Crown station on Frederick Road, then adding a second on Delrey Avenue.

He then turned his attention to real estate, said his wife, Joanne.

She said her husband owned and managed both residential and commercial projects before concentrating on commercial real estate. He was still working until shortly before his death.

"He was really into Catonsville and really into the community," said Maureen Sweeney Smith, executive director of the Catonsville Community Foundation, a project of the Catonsville chamber of commerce, which supports local nonprofit organizations.

"He's going to be missed. I can tell you," she said.

Sweeney Smith praised Booth for his efforts to reinvigorate the Frederick Road business district in the 1980s and '90s, pointing to the buildings in an area he refurbished, such as the former C&P Building at the corner of Mellor Avenue, and new office buildings he built.

Not everyone approved, she acknowledged. But he persisted.

"He invested a lot of money into Catonsville," she said.