Former Devil Ellis Booth dies at 55

Mark Martin

Mick Price, Ravenswood’s long-time head boys basketball coach, remembers Ellis Booth’s tremendous desire on the basketball court and off.

Booth not only played basketball but also competed in football and baseball while at Ravenswood High, where he graduated in 1983.

His love for athletics would carry him throughout his life.

Professionally, he became a highly-successful principal and athletic director with the bulk of his career being spent at Health High School in Ohio’s Licking County, about 30 minutes from Columbus.

The school and community have been in mourning the last few days following Booth’s passing due to complications from COVID-19 on Dec. 5.

The Heath City Schools issued the following statement:

“Saturday afternoon we learned that we had lost a cherished member of our district leadership team. Ellis Booth had been hospitalized with issues associated with COVID-19. Ellis served our district as athletic director, principal, and assistant principal, all at Heath High School. Ellis was a veteran leader on our team and has served the district for more than 20 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, our staff, and our entire community.”

Price, among others in Jackson County, was saddened to hear of Booth’s passing.

“He was a really good person. When he was a freshman he wanted to keep stats for the varsity and play basketball (on the freshmen team),” Price recalled.

Booth’s freshman season was the school year of 1979-80 when Ravenswood reached the Class AA State Tournament.

“He loved athletics,” Price said. “He was a great teammate and a great guy to have in the program.”

Trevor Thomas, Health’s superintendent of school’s, was truly emotional while speaking with the Newark Advocate’s Dave Weidig for a story about Booth.

“It’s more personal for me. When he was principal, he hired me (as assistant principal). He hired (current Heath High School principal) Kat Fields, twice as a teacher. I think he had hired all of us. He was like a father-figure. He was one hell of an AD, and one hell of a person.”

Following his days at Ravenswood, Booth attended Ohio State and received a BS in social studies. He earned his education administration masters from Ashland University.

Booth was born in Columbus. His late father Ed was a geologist for AEP. He worked in Ohio and Michigan before coming to Ravenswood. Booth’s mother, Brenda, is also deceased.

While teaching in Newcomerstown, Ohio, Booth met the love of his life, wife Debbie. Newcomerstown is home to a pair of sports legends in the late Woody Hayes and Ty Cobb.

While in London, Ohio, Booth coached football, baseball, and girls basketball. He later would teach and coach at Delaware Hayes High in Delaware, Ohio.

Booth joined the staff at Heath in 2001 as assistant principal and athletic director. He was also an assistant football coach while at the Home of the Bulldogs.

He was the AD/assistant principal from 2001-2006 and then added the role of principal to his duties in 2008. He would be the school’s principal until 2016.

His strong devotion to sports, though, led him to step down from the school’s top position in order to become a full-time athletic director.

While in the hospital, trying to fight off the virus, Booth was still working.

Mark Collier, the school’s girls’ basketball coach, told the Advocate his last text with Booth was on Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving. The two were working on rescheduling a game. 

It displayed both Booth’s dedication and passion for his craft.

The former Devil is credited for getting turf installed at the school’s Swank Field. It was just part of a $1 million fundraising campaign Booth spearheaded to upgrade the football stadium where the Bulldogs played.

Head football coach Tim Ward said Booth instilled pride in Heath wanting the school and facilities to look top-notch. “That included the way the players looked and acted. He wanted them to represent the school well,” Ward said in the Advocate article.

Booth served as president of the Licking County League and played a big part in its growth.

Without question, Booth’s biggest challenge in his professional years came within the past several months in dealing with COVID-19 for his school’s athletes.

“All through COVID-19, he attended the meetings, and would calm us down,” Thomas said in the Newark Advocate story. “He was smart, and kind, and candid. He was really special.”

Sadly, COVID-19 brought this special man’s life to an end.

A special man’s life that included living in Ravenswood, going to school at Ravenswood High School, and competing for the Red Devils. 

Booth would have turned 56 on Dec. 21. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Madison, a son, Payton, who was a standout athlete at Heath, and a brother, Mike.

“This is a sad day, for his family and friends, the Heath community and the entire LCL community,” Ron Bowman, commissioner of the LCL, told the Advocate. “It just goes to show you how fragile life is, and how tenuous.”

“He loved being a Red Devil,” Price said. “It meant a lot to him.”