Don Booth

Don Booth Memorial Minute

December 19, 1916 - January 21, 2011

At the age of 94 Donald Booth passed from this world into the next as an exemplar to many.  He lived a plain and simple yet extraordinary life with Lois, his wife and companion for 64 years.  Together they raised six children and very consciously sought always to live in the Light.  He was one of the founding members of Concord Monthly Meeting as it was revived in the 1950s.  The gentle but powerful force of his character made him a leader.  To those of us who have shared time with Don and watched his life unfold, we are left to marvel in joy for a life well lived to its last breath.  He died as he lived…in Grace.

Don was an introspective person who examined his actions and responses to circumstances.  He was a true seeker, always wanting to know himself better.  Don worked hard with his wife to improve their relationship and understanding of one another. They attended weekend retreats, were in a couples support group for years, and both participated in Re-evaluation Counseling with Don continuing that for decades.

Journals and letters from his early years reveal a man of strong values who could not abide social injustice and coercion.  While he always sought common ground with others, he was uncompromising when faced with principled decisions.  He saw the humanity and dignity of those he encountered, sometimes placing himself at risk during the Jim Crow era.  He was utterly clear that he could not participate in the military and accepted the scorn that accompanied his resistance of the draft in the 1940’s. 

Don discovered the value of community while serving in the Civilian Public Service camps populated with conscientious objectors during WWII.  Early in their lives together after the war, Don and Lois traveled to the Bruderhof Community in New York State to explore membership with that intentional community.  Instead they decided to plant their roots in Canterbury, NH but looked for ways to build community at every turn.  Their home was designed to accommodate many people in a small space.  There were frequent drop-in visitors and those who came for extended visits.  They had tried communal farming and moved on from it before the start of the “back to the land” movement of the 60’s.  Don was instrumental in the 1954 volunteer effort to build a new school in Canterbury.  Soon after that he began his own home construction business and called it Community Builders, a very intentional play on words. 

Don applied his immense energy, curiosity, and creativity to the business.  He was a man of his word and stood by his price regardless of cost over runs.  As a creative perfectionist Don was not always easy to work for, but he attracted a crew of smart and curious workers who knew that something special was going on at Community Builders.  By the 1970’s Don’s awareness of the need for more energy-efficient homes became a single minded focus in his business.  Each new home incorporated lessons learned from the last and new ideas to better harness the heating capacity of the sun and the earth itself.  He twice received the New Hampshire Governor’s award for energy innovation and contributions to the solar field. Don published two books on passive solar design and construction.  Once again being a community builder, Don offered seminars for owner builders and freely shared his experience and enthusiasm for the solar options he was pioneering.  Indeed, a number of members of the Meeting built homes that benefited from his vision and generosity.

Since Don was a man who applied his abilities to the fullest, those close to him did not focus on his disabilities.  For many years Don served on the Governor’s Commission on Disability having first-hand experience with a vocal cord dysfunction that often left unaccustomed listeners struggling to understand his words.  He also had a severe hearing loss especially as he aged.  But Don’s smile and open arms, and his desire to warmly engage others heart-to-heart overcame any communication barriers.  Within the Concord Monthly Meeting, Don was exceptionally welcoming – open to all and a cheerleader for each person as they faced the challenges that life presented.

Don was a life-long activist for peace and justice.  He stood with his brothers and sisters on the Mall in Washington in 1963 to hear Dr. King proclaim his dream.  On any given Tax Day, one could be sure to find Don standing silently at the Concord Federal Building and Post Office.  Carefully crafted signs encouraged others, as they mailed their tax returns, to understand his protest against the military machine and his efforts to pay no federal income taxes.  He began, and carried on for many years, a weekly peace vigil in Concord. As the weather turned cold and as his legs became too infirm to hold him up, he would bring along his folding lawn chair and blankets.  In Don’s 80’s, with concern for his safety, his children labored with him and convinced him to cancel plans for a potentially dangerous witness in Iraq in early 2003 as US military action appeared imminent.  Don used his considerable yet quiet influence at demonstrations to cause an uplifting message to be spread.  His demeanor and the language on his signs spoke with a volume that his voice could not.  As he was arrested or audited by the IRS he took those occasions to give witness to the representatives of government that they might be positively influenced by the experience he was creating. 

Don displayed a special joy in life in his last years.  As he came to accept his own increasing physical and mental challenges he radiated true delight and happiness to those around him.  His simple, joy-filled, open armed “Yes” during introduction time after Concord Meeting worship communicated his fullness of being in communion with others.  One did not need to have a deep conversation to be fully present with Don.  Don’s last outing from his nursing home bed was to attend the dedication service for his Meeting’s new meetinghouse which he had urged be designed for energy efficiency.  As he approached the building and as he was wheeled into the already assembled gathering, Don held out his arms as if to embrace the universe.  His smile extended across any distance that could be imagined.  This way of being is the gift he left his Meeting.