ST. JOSEPH – Tatman’s Towing owner Jim Hampton says Ross Booker has amassed more than 20 years of life than many people three times their age than they are capable of.
“I don’t know anyone who’s done as much as they’ve done in 20 years,” Hampton said of his former employee. “Some septuagenarians haven’t done as much as him.”
Mr Booker, who would have turned 21 this month, died on March 6, a day after he was hit by a vehicle as he prepared to tow another after an accident in south Champaign.
He had worked for Tatman for about a year and was preparing to start an internship as a diesel mechanic with Ryder Truck Rentals after completing Parkland College’s diesel equipment technician program requirements.
Last week, his family was informed that the trustees had approved the award of a posthumous honorary degree.
This degree is just one way Mr. Booker, from rural St. Joseph, will be honored.
His mother, Marita, who said her son was due to begin his internship at Ryder in mid-March, said an endowment had also been created in his name at Parkland.
“We would also like to do something for FFA (at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, where he graduated), 4-H,” she said. “Whatever Ross got his hands on, we’re going to volunteer.”
She said Prairieview-Ogden Junior High, which Mr. Booker attended, is also set to present an award on May 9 in her honor.
“This community of St. Joseph is the best community to be a part of,” she said, adding that her husband, Dave, son, Anthony, “and I and our extended family are beyond grateful, blessed and lucky to be part of this community.
“We’ve had people in their 60s say, ‘We’ve never seen a community like yours,'” she said. by the amount of love poured out and upon us by this community.
Marita Booker estimated that 1,200 to 1,500 people came to her son’s visit, which started at 4 p.m. and was due to end at 7 p.m., but lasted another three-and-a-half hours due to the influx.
His brother Anthony, who said they were close despite being five-and-a-half years apart, said Mr Booker didn’t care much about learning books. He would rather get his hands dirty.
“It kind of cracked me up on the differences between people,” Anthony said. “He barely made it through the two years, and here my fiancee will have been in school for 11 years. I said, ‘Ross, just a little longer.’
“He was definitely not one to be in class. I think he liked to be involved and in the middle of everything.
Ross had been a volunteer with the St. Joseph-Stanton Fire Department for about a year, his mother said.
Hampton called Mr Booker “great, one of the kids you’re really lucky to have as an employee, as a teammate”.
“He had a great attitude and a great outlook on life,” he said.
Hampton said Mr Booker loved “the adrenaline rush for what comes with towing, working on the highways”.
“He liked the customers. It touched a lot of customers,” he said. “After Ross passed away, we had a lot of clients he helped offer their condolences on social media, and we asked people to donate to the Ross Booker Scholarship Fund at Parkland. “
Marita Booker said her son isn’t afraid to put things into perspective for those who have had accidents.
“He saw a mother threatening her child to drive” after the son was in an accident, she said. “He said to her, ‘Just be glad he’s okay.’
“He was 20 at the time, giving wisdom to a mother who should have been glad her son was okay.”
Marita Booker said she tried to pass this on to her sons when they rang the car bell: Material things can be replaced; it’s the people who are important.
His son was also known for his ability to work with wood, building a kitchen table for the family in his father’s workshop. He also did landscaping.
“He had a phrase for this business: ‘If you want your landscaping to be a looker, call Booker,'” his mother said.
Hampton said while Mr Booker was set to intern at Ryder as a diesel mechanic, he also intended to continue working part-time for Tatman’s.
Shortly before he started at Ryder, “guys were playing around with him and calling him ‘short-timer,'” Hampton said. “He said, ‘I have a surprise for you. I will stick around.
Anthony Booker said his brother was “a hard worker and sometimes stubborn. He was very caring and always a happy camper. I spoke to him every day.
Anthony said he was thrilled that his brother will experience the “next things to come in his life – where he’s going to go, who he’s going to work for, what he’s going to do, what great opportunities are going to be presented to him .”
Anthony and his fiancee Cassie will marry on June 17. Mr. Booker was to be the witness.
“It’s definitely like an empty place now,” her brother said.