ROBERT LEE BOOTHE
1927 – 2021
Lived life to the fullest
Robert Lee Boothe—a man of unparalleled devotion to his wife and children who excelled in business, the military, dog breeding, flying, and fidelity to his Methodist faith—passed away of congestive heart failure at Eden Hill Communities in New Braunfels, TX, on March 20, 2021, his children and granddaughter at his side. He was 93.
It is no cliché to say that Bob, as most called him, lived life to the fullest. Whether it was clinching an oil-land deal, breeding his adored Beagles, learning aerobatics, or attending his children’s recitals, he did it with the same commitment and zeal he devoted to serving his country as a U.S. Army officer.
The first of two children, Bob was born August 6, 1927, in Shreveport, LA, to Smith Robinson, a housewife, and Robert E. Boothe, who worked at Halliburton, a multinational oil company, which required the family to move often.
Playing practical jokes
Bobby, as his parents and sister called him, attended elementary school in Kilgore and Longview, TX, Junior High School in Midland, TX, and graduated from Wewoka (Oklahoma) High School in 1947. Although he interrupted high school to serve in the U.S. Navy from June of 1945 to August 1946, he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in music from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in January, 1952.
Legendary for playing practical jokes in those days, he once stood in the hallway outside his elementary school classroom and tossed a dead mouse through the transom window. The creature plopped on the teacher’s desk, landing Bobby in the principal’s office. More fittingly, he collected stamps, played percussion in band, and loved listening to baseball games on the radio with his grandfather.
Switching from the Navy to the U.S. Army after college, Bob received his commission as a Second Lieutenant and served on active duty until December of 1953.
In 1947, Bob had no idea that he was about to meet the love of his life. A Phi Kappa Psi pledge at OU, he was ordered to go on a blind date as a requirement of his fraternity and was fixed up by a sorority sister of Ellen Louise McMahan, a petite, cherubic-faced, dark-blond beauty. Although poles apart in personality, both were pursuing music degrees.
At 6-foot-1, with broad shoulders and mischievous blue eyes, Bob was outgoing and sociable, easily falling into conversation with total strangers. Ellen, on the other hand, was somewhat shy and quiet, much preferring to curl up with a good book rather than party. They complimented each other and were married on January 25, 1950, a small wedding at McFarlin Methodist Church in Norman, OK.
His upside-down smile
Ironically, on their first date, Bob told Ellen, who went on to become a teacher, that she was “his kind of girl” because she didn’t bleach her hair. Ellen was thinking to herself, “Well, I guess I won’t be going out with him anymore.” Little did he know that although she was a natural blonde, she did bleach her hair, just a little. But Bob had a keen sense of humor and knack for gentle teasing. His best attribute was his captivating, upside-down smile.
Bob was jubilant with the births of their three children, first David, then Emily, and finally Paul. But by the time Emily came along, he decided to change from active duty to the U.S. Army Reserves and took a job as a petroleum landman for Sunray Oil Corporation in 1953. Performing various services relating to oil and gas exploration required the Bob and the family to relocate from Midland to Abilene, TX to Roswell, New Mexico.
By to 1965, weary of moving his family around, he began working for Producers Grain Corporation (PGC) in Amarillo as Director of Field Service and later as Vice President of Business Development.
A popular speaker at the annual member meetings, he was also quite dapper, especially when he wore his tweed flat caps. Whether addressing a U.S. President or a fast-food worker, he made them feel equally special. The first time he met President George Bush, for example, he and Ellen—as members of the First United Methodist Church of Midland Choir—were invited to perform at the last White House Christmas event that the President and First Lady Laura Bush were in office.
Scheduled trips to attend children’s recitals
Although his new career allowed his family to purchase a colonial-style home in a brick-paved, tree-lined street in Amarillo, and Ellen to stay put as a school teacher, it still required Bob to travel extensively for two or more weeks at a time. He made it a point to schedule business trips so that he could attend his children’s concerts and recitals. He also always encouraged them in everything from academics to careers.
During those early years, however, Ellen was the main disciplinarian and monitor of grades, which suited both parents.
In 1980, Bob became Land Manager for Argonaut Energy Corporation in Amarillo; and in 1981, he was named Vice President-Trust Property Manager for the First National Bank of Midland until 1988. In 1990, he worked for The University of Texas of the Permian Basin as the Director of Economic Development and manager of the Center for Energy and Economic Development, retiring in 1998. He had been honorably discharged from the Army Reserve in 1983 with the rank of Major.
In middle age, Bob and Dallas Cowboys coach, Tom Landry, looked quite a bit alike. On Bob’s frequent travels, people would sometimes ask him if he was Mr. Landry. Daughter Emily would laugh when he told those stories and jokingly wonder out loud, “Dad, did anyone ever approach Tom Landry to ask him if he was Bob Boothe?”
A life-long Methodist and member of the First United Methodist Church in Midland, Bob still found time to serve on boards, teach Sunday School, and volunteer for Vacation Bible School. Fascinated with airplanes as a boy, he went on to acquire his private pilot’s license and learned aerobatics so he could fly upside-down and do loop-de-loops, a subject his wife forbade him to discuss with the children. His aerobatics scared her to death.
Always willing to lend a helping hand, Bob volunteered to fly his twin-engine plane from Amarillo to Glacier National Park in Montana when the leader of his youngest son’s church youth group had fallen ill and needed to return home for medical treatment.
Travel, music and Beagles
A perk of Bob’s profession allowed he and his wife, and often his children, to see the world. Japan was one of the couple’s favorite countries to visit, as was Williamsburg, VA domestically. He liked taking the grandkids to historical sites in Texas and his children to places important to the family’s ancestry, including Missouri and Tennessee.
Music and singing were Bob and Ellen’s other passions. They regularly attended symphonies and relished singing together in the Methodist Church choirs and the Midland Odessa Symphony Chorale, which occasioned their meeting with President Bush. Bob, who sang bass, loved opera, especially Madam Butterfly.
Bob’s interest in Beagles began in Roswell, NM in 1963. The Beagle that stole his heart was May Morn, a South Spring Champion and Bob and Ellen’s first show dog, as well as the foundation for the South Spring Beagles bloodline and kennel.
Considered pets by the family, the dogs lived in the house, with dog runs in the back yard. The kids all had “dog chores” from scooping poop, daily grooming, and feeding. Son David loved the dogs but did not involve himself with the shows. Paul attended shows and participated in Junior Showmanship. Emily loved the shows, helped train the puppies, groom at the shows and participated in Junior Showmanship.
In all, the Boothes bred and raised at least five litters, from which four or more champions resulted. Their kennel, South Spring Beagles, made significant contributions to the betterment of the breed, and Bob became an American Kennel Club (AKC) judge, which required 12 years of experience. Active in local kennel clubs and the National Beagle Club of America, he also mentored many newcomers in how to show the dogs.
Even busier after retirement
If possible, Bob became even busier after retirement, involved in everything from judging Beagles to contributing to his college, church and community, for which he won numerous accolades. He also became a docent at the George W. Bush Childhood Home Museum in Midland. Reporter Greta Van Susteren interviewed Bush 43 in the museum in November, 2014, and Bob was there and able to photograph the event
But children, grandchildren and great grandchildren became an even bigger priority. He saw to it that they all had complete sets of Encyclopedias, including all the updates. He and Ellen recorded themselves reading children’s books, enabling his grandkids to follow along, complete with a bell when it was time to turn the page.
A military man at heart, Bob was a true patriot and had a flag pole in front of his home. When his young grandson, Aaron, visited him on summer vacations, Bob made it a point to teach him the finer points of raising the flag each morning and lowering it each evening. He always emphasized the importance of learning how to properly fold the flag.
Generosity of spirit
Sentiments left on Bob’s Facebook page after he died provide clues to his generosity of spirit.
“In a world that is often filled with pettiness, Bob was a shining light of positivity. No matter the situation or concern, Bob always had a story and a perspective that placed the person with the issue at ease.”
“He was such a mentor to so many in the Beagle world and [to] others who sought his counsel.”
“Bob was a gentle man and a gentleman.”
“Truly a Saint! What an amazing man of God he was to so many.”
“When I had my bypass surgery, he was a very encouraging voice.”
Predeceased by his parents, sister and his beloved wife of 62 years, Ellen, Bob is survived by son David (Carol) of Kimberly, West Virginia; daughter Emily Choate (Robert) of Canyon Lake, TX; son Paul (Mayra) of Austin, TX; granddaughter Kelly Matheson (Andy) of Midland, TX; grandson Aaron Boothe of Brule, WI; great grandsons Robert, Liam and Andrew, and two nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates donations at any of the following: American Beagle Relief Network (AmBRNet) at https://ambrnet.org/in memoriam; Hope Hospice at hopehospice.net; The Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org.