A version of my comments at Steve Booher's funeral celebration yesterday.
We want to celebrate the wonderfully rich
life of Steve Booher, one of Oklahoma’s giants, a giant of family, journalism
and community service. The two words that come to mind about Steve are “devoted
servant.” I don’t mean a namby-pamby devotion, but a strong dedication that you
can see in his life.
For you, the family in your grief, Sonya,
Shannan Booher, Mike Booher, Alan Clepper, and Amanda
Barrett and families, and brothers Kent and
Scott and grandchildren and nieces and nephews, you have our
deepest sympathy and admiration. Family was first with Steve. I think his last Facebook
posts were bragging about his grandchildren. I’ve witnessed his and Sonya’s
great love and care for each other over the years, and I thank Shannan and Mike for their
confidence. I’m just an old weekly newspaper man who has been blessed, like
you, to have known and worked with Steve.
Steve’s even referenced in the Bible. In
Genesis, it is written:
were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of
God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same
became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” There are Steve’s
I’ve known him, of course, as a journalist
and friend for more than 40 years, and I so admire how he well balanced his
family with the demands of weekly newspapering, a career of long hours and hard
He and Sonya were
married in February. 1985 and they spent the next three days at the OPA
midwinter convention, and every anniversary there too. Steve would joke, “Nothing
like being able to write off your honeymoon and anniversary as business
expenses.” Sonya has stars in her crown for putting up with that.
Steve was always a
storyteller, a craftsman with the written word, and a natural oral story teller
of people, politics and everything else. What one story about Steve do you
remember now about how Steve could make you smile, something that happened,
some story he’d tell? There are many, aren’t they?
|Steve telling another story at my retirement|
He worked with some
giants in newspapers, and became one himself, especially Larry Hammer, graduating
with pride from the Hammer School of Journalism. “Never stop learning,” Steve
said, and he never did, going from hot metal to computers and beyond, always
trying to learn more in trying to put out an excellent newspaper for his town,
He looked and sounded
gruff, was stubborn and strong, and earned it all those years putting out a
paper, but he seasoned that with a sense of humor and inside he was generous
and gentle to those who knew him.
Mike told me how as
a boy he had wanted some expensive athletic shoes, but knew his Dad couldn’t
afford them. One day Steve came in and told Mike he had some shoes for him. Expecting
the cheaper ones—that I would have bought—Mike found his wish—which was a lot
for a small-town journalist to dig for.
Steve when he was at Duncan and I at Waurika, and then got to know him covering
Friday night high school football, walking the sidelines, cameras and heavy
flash equipment and notepads. We have stories, especially on the nights when
the weather turned bad. I think one was at the Ringling Waurika rivalry, and
Steve disagrees Comanche-Marlow but he’s the better storyteller.
Now Steve would
embellish stories, and they’d grow like our waistlines as our hairlines and
memories receded. Eventually that game went from light rain to a downpour, and then
sleet, and so cold they light blazing fires in oil barrels along the sidelines
to keep the players from freezing. I expect the next version to include a blizzard
moving in with 10 feet of snow, but he probably never thought of it.
Meanwhile he and I
would be out there, plastic draped over the flash heads, trying to take photos,
getting soaked. We talked about doing it again this fall, for old time’s sake.
What a story that would have been. "Geezers on the gridiron."
In his 37 years at the
Cherokee Messenger and Republican, he
developed into a giant of journalism and community service, always humble, but
always an advocate for the people. His gruffness served him well when standing
up for what was right, including his strong opinions and editorials. He earned
the respect and admiration of most-–even a few preachers and Republicans--because
of his service to the town in the newspaper and personally as a volunteer. It’s
no accident Cherokee named him a citizen of the year and awarded him a lifetime
His papers were, as
my wife commented the other night, thick with news.” His front-page column
“From This Corner” told more stories the human side, the humor of living in a
As newspapers , especially big ones are facing troubling times, he and I would joke about the buzz word being used by
the big boys. They used to look down
their noses at us, saying we covered “chicken dinner news” Now they want
“Hyper-local.” "We were hyper local before they were born,” he’d snort.
In addition to his
community and family, he served the state press association for years in
various roles, all the way to the top as president, always respected for his
experience, his humor and hard work. His awards and honors for quality
journalism and service piled up, higher than that blizzard that was about to
hit. Most recent this spring was induction into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of
Fame. You could count on Steve.
To me he was what
every journalist is supposed to be, but despite the long hours he never forgot
When he visited Mike
in the Coast Guard at Corpus Cristi a few years ago, we had is camera at his
side and Mike told him they wouldn’t let him aboard. He kept it. When they came up to the XO to
look at the bridge, the officer said you can’t take that in. Steve asked the
officer for his name, because he was a member of the press. He wanted to he
able to tell about the officer who didn’t want people to know how great a job
the Coast Guard was doing. Mike said Steve got a tour of the ship.
humor and jibes among friends and colleagues was legendary. I remember going to
his retirement reception a few years ago, and when I walked in, he smiled,
scowled and said something like, “I thought I told the police to keep you out
of town.” “I bribed them” I shot back.
There’s just one
thing about Steve I resent. He looked so handsome and distinguished dressed
impeccably and with that neatly trimmed beard. As an old guy with ink still
under his fingernails, I was jealous. I tried to grow a beard a few years back,
and well, I said something to Steve about not measuring up. “I look like a mangy
dog,” I said. Steve replied, “Well, shaving might not help either.…”
If I’ve embellished
this, I learned from the best.
I do know this, right now, there’s a new hospitality
suite in heaven, Michael Martin Murphy music blaring, and Steve and Hammer are
telling stories and God is in stitches
“Wrap it up Clark, wrap it up,” Steve is
growling. “These people have deadlines.”
“Ok, Steve. We will walk the sidelines again,
my friend, just not yet.”