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Tom Booth, prominent Catonsville businessman and developer, dies at 70

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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.

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.

Sweeney Smith said she worked with Booth on Catonsville's annual Fourth of July Parade for many years.

In fact, Booth served as grand marshal of the parade in 1998.

She noted that Booth offered his front yard as a staging area for the parades each year and the Catonsville Fourth of July Committee counted on it as a place to gather before the marching began.

"We've enjoyed it, believe me," Joanne Booth said. "I hope it can continue."

Booth, an Arbutus native and member of the Class of 1959 at Mount St. Joseph High School, was a developer who invested time and effort into the community, said 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville and Arbutus.

"Tom was a great person to work with," Quirk said.

He added that they had been "actively engaged" in a couple of revitalization projects in the area.

"I'm shocked by the news," he said. "My sincere condolences go out to his wife and his family."

Booth was born Dec. 11, 1941, to Bill and Cecilia Booth, of Arbutus, one of five children.

After graduation from Mount St. Joe, he served two years in the United States Navy and graduated from the University of Maryland.

He married the former Joanne Peterson, of Baldwin, on July 20, 1968. The couple have two sons.

Booth was a longtime member of the Rolling Road Golf Club, served on the board of trustees for Mount St. Joe and was very involved with the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus.

He was also a parishioner at St. Mark Church, where his wife said he was instrumental in the construction of the parish center on Winters Lane.

In addition, he donated funds and materials for the No. 8 Streetcar Path.

"He loved his children and his grandchildren," his wife. "And he was always ready to help anyone in need."

In addition to his wife, he is survived by sons Thomas Booth Jr., of Catonsville, with wife, Lynnea, and Michael Booth, also of Catonsville, with wife, Laurie; two grandchildren, Jackson Booth and Addison Booth; and three brothers, William Booth, of Frederick, with wife Sue; James Booth, of Catonsville, with wife, Dorene; and Michael Booth of Medfield, Mass., with wife, Mary Kate; several nieces and nephews; and longtime trusted and valued employee Janet King.

He was preceded in death by a sister, Mary Kasten, who died in 2007, and her husband, Roi, who died in 2010.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Mount St. Joseph High School, 4403 Frederick Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21229, or to St. Mark Catholic Church, 27 Melvin Avenue, Catonsville, MD 21228.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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