Tuesday, May 26, 2009
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Personality of the Week

His workplace list might be short, but he's long on community and family commitment: Mike Booher

Pictured, from left, are Kameron Bishop, Mike's grandson; Stephanie Hughs, his daughter-in-law; Mike Booher; Taylor Booher, his granddaughter; his wife, Karen; and his son, David.

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[May 26, 2009]  Everyone who knows Mike Booher has heard his loud, distinctive laugh. Mike himself professes that his sense of humor is one of his strongest character traits. But when it is time to volunteer, Booher melds that sense of humor with a singular dedication to the task at hand. He is serious about his commitments to his family, his church and community.

Born and raised on a small farm outside of Dayton, Ohio, Mike and his sister, Betty, lived a rural life with their parents, George and Georgia. Mike was active in FFA as a boy, with projects in hogs, cattle and crops. His father was a part-time farmer but also worked for GM, making airplane propellers.

From an industry that didn't have much future, the family moved, looking for better opportunities, and eventually ended up on the north side of Decatur in 1961. Being a rural family, George and Georgia chose the area so that their children could go to Maroa-Forsyth High School rather than one of the bigger city schools. Booher said there was an adjustment from rural life to big city but that Maroa-Forsyth was a smaller school that lessened the culture shock. "The kids were all good kids and they welcomed new kids on the block," Mike recalled.

While in high school, Mike was able to continue his FFA activities and even found a bit of time for sports. "I was on the school football team that ended the year 13-0. But I promise you, it wasn't because of Mike Booher," he said with a laugh. Booher injured his knee and had to have it replaced but said the experience gave him his opportunity to brag about old football injuries.

Booher went on to graduate from SIU with a degree in agricultural economics in 1965.

Mike married Karen, a high school classmate. The two ended up being the only married couple out of a class of 50. He said that they were not high school sweethearts, due to his being "slow on the draw." They have been married for 45 years. With his usual humor Mike quipped, "Apparently it worked."

Mike's intent following college was to become a farm manager. But "for some reason" he changed his mind and began a job as a production trainee at DeKalb Hybrids. He didn't find the work interesting and left after six months. He made it a point to say that DeKalb was a very good company; it was the work he didn't like.

In January of 1966 Booher applied for a job with the Farm Home Administration. It was while working for them in Shelbyville that he and Karen had their two children, David and Teresa.

Apparently Mike found his home for a career, working for FHA and then Rural Development for 42 years before retiring in January of 2008 as the manager of the Lincoln office. "My son, David, likes to joke that I have the shortest resume in the country," Mike said.

There are more examples of Mike's long-term commitments in his community affairs. He wasn't sure how long he has been involved with Kiwanis but said that Wayne Schrader recently gave him a 25-year award. "I believe Wayne would know," Mike said.

A past Kiwanis president and a board member for half of his years with the organization, Mike is a fixture at almost every Kiwanis fundraiser. Longtime friend and fellow Kiwanian Bob Sullivan summed up the feelings of the membership: "Mike isn't the kind of person that just joins something. If he joins, he becomes committed, he becomes active."

Mike's dedication to Kiwanis is based on the club's singular goal of dedicating themselves to youth projects. "There is nothing more important than our youth," Mike said.

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Mike and Karen have been involved with the First United Methodist Church for years as well. Mike currently serves on the church's farm committee and worship committee and was a head usher for a decade. He currently is also a one-man committee as he has taken the task of maintaining flowers and landscape about the church grounds.

Bill Overton, a church member, had the same opinion explaining Mike's personality as others did. "Mike isn't a quiet person, but then again he is," Overton said. "He isn't the kind of person who says, hey everyone, look what I did." But if a person looks at how well the area around the church looks, it can be attributed to Mike quietly volunteering himself to get the job done.

Booher also is involved with the Community Action Partnership of Central Illinois as a private-sector board member, and like everything he becomes involved with, he receives high praise for his service. "Mike has been involved in Community Action for 10 years," said Angela Stoltzenburg, the executive director and CEO. "He currently serves the agency as treasurer of the governing board (for the last six years), which requires a great deal of volunteer time. His involvement in Community Action is a true testament to his concern for the families in central Illinois who face difficult times."

Booher also decided to become involved with our local senior citizen organization and is currently beginning his second, three-year term on the board of directors of The Oasis.

Mike also helps with the local blood drives as Karen's assistant, and like with everything else, he is as active as possible. He currently is a 20-gallon donor besides helping with the blood drives.

Although Mike has many community projects that take up his time, he still found the time to go back to work part time for the State Bank of Lincoln. Mike explained that the State Bank has relations with over 100 banks in the state. "I travel throughout the state visiting banks two days a week, and then I spend a day at the office working on write-ups," he said. He finds acting as a liaison both challenging and interesting.

Professionals often volunteer in community activities on behalf of their business or workplace or to add to their resumes. While Mike is involved in much, it has nothing to do with pay or recognition. "I don't need anything for my resume, because I don't have one," he said.

While Mike's resume might have been short on entries, everything he has done shows an active, long-term commitment to whatever he becomes involved within our community. It is this commitment, without any need for personal recognition, that makes us proud to recognize Mike Booher as this week's Personality of the Week.



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