Family, friends mourn those killed in Carter County plane crash
Published 09/04/2007 By John Thompson and Jim Wozniak
From left to right: Craig Clark, Gerald Booth, Jim Osborne, Leon Rosko. ________________
The story of two of the five men who perished this weekend in a plane crash in Carter County while they were on a mission to discuss building a church in Virginia carries some similarities.
Gerald Booth, 65, Unicoi, had worked in Unicoi County as an electrician in residential and commercial construction.
To support his family, Craig Clark, 57, Elizabethton, started his own commercial cleaning business in Elizabethton, Professional Cleaning Services. The company specialized in cleaning commercial offices, carpets and cars. Craig also branched out into the carpet binding business. It was very much a family business, with all the members joining in to do the work.
Neither Clark nor Booth was a Jehovah’s Witness from birth, but both joined the denomination when they were teenagers, having tagged along with parents for Bible studies.
“As a young boy, he wanted to continue studying the Bible,” said Booth’s son, Mike. “He was a very spiritually minded young boy growing up.”
“Through his study of the Bible, he wanted to be a minister and follow Jesus’ example of preaching the good news of the kingdom, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Sharon Booth, Booth’s wife of 44 years. “Everything they taught was from the Bible. Anything he believed or didn’t believe, he can prove from the Bible.”
It was also their beliefs that brought Craig and Booth long distances to spread the faith. Craig, then 20, moved to East Tennessee with his newlywed wife, Karen, from Southern California in 1970 in response to a need for ministers. Booth, married for about 10 years, came to the area from Allenville, N.Y., in 1973 to start a new congregation in Unicoi when he was about 31.
Both took on extra duties in Jehovah’s Witnesses, including service on a regional building committee that put them on a single-engine Beech Bonanza that crashed Saturday on Holston Mountain. The plane was headed from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport to Virginia Highlands Airport near Abingdon. The investigation into what caused the crash is continuing.
In addition to Clark and Booth, the crash claimed the lives of pilot Victor James Osborne, of Morristown, and fellow passengers Leon Rosko, of Sevierville, and Randall W. Walp, of Hixon.
“He was very involved in the building committee,” Chad Clark said of his father. “The five of them spent a lot of time together, and they enjoyed being together.”
The Booth family said the potential hazard of traveling by plane was apparent to Gerald.
“He knew there was a risk involved,” his son said. “My point is that he went the way he would want to go. He was doing the ministry work. If he had his choice of way of going, he’d be right in there doing the ministry work.”
Despite his hard work and his dedication to his church, Craig also had plenty of time for his family, Chad said.
“He was a loving father who took care of our needs in every way he possibly could, those of my mother and my sister and me. He taught us about the Bible and Jesus and told us what we needed to hear. We worked as a family witnessing to others. …”
One of Chad’s favorite memories of his dad when he was not working hard was the times they enjoyed scuba diving. Craig taught Chad the sport and they went on trips to Honduras and the Cayman Islands.
Mike Booth had a heavy heart as well.
“I just miss him terribly,” he said, fighting emotion. “I don’t know what else to say except I lost a father, and I miss him.”
A memorial service for the five men will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City. The public is invited.