When Larry “Joe” Booth was advised to stop his medication after a lengthy fight against cancer, he knew the end was near. But there was one thing he’d always longed to do in his lifetime. And his kindhearted nurse helped him make that dream a reality.
Booth was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 25, 1948. He settled down in Clarksville, Indiana, and had an auto repair store in Jeffersonville. Booth had a love of cars and was known for his passion for drag racing.
He married a woman named Barbara and had five children, Brian, Derrick, Gerry, Larry Jr. and Jonathon. Booth went on to lose both his son Derrick and his wife of 39 years in 2015. Then, that same year, he got some tragic news of his own.
Booth was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started treatment at Norton Cancer Institute. But after a two-year battle against the illness, things weren’t looking up. And in February 2018 it was advised that Booth stop his treatment.
Booth knew that this meant he didn’t have much longer. So he wanted to take his doctor Arash Rezazadeh and nurse Tracey Hoffman’s suggestion to make the most of the time he had left. “They told me to stop taking the medication and to focus on living life day to day,” he told the Louisville Courier Journal.
“So, I’m doing that the best I can,” Booth continued. “Dr. Rez [and] Tracey, they’ve been angels.” Booth was frightened by the prognosis, but he started to think about what he wanted to do before he died. And then he realized that there was one thing that had always been at the top of his bucket list.
As a child, Booth developed an interest in World War II planes. In fact, the young boy used to play with model aircraft regularly. But even so, he had never actually experienced the real deal at any point in his life.
“I’ve never stepped foot in an airplane,” he admitted to Courier Journal . “I used to build model airplanes all the time as a kid, but I just never got the chance.” And so he told Hoffman his dream – and she wanted to do everything in her power to help him achieve it.
“Here we are talking about the end of his life and he’s thinking about how he had never been in an airplane,” she recalled for Courier Journal . Hoffman shared an online post detailing Booth’s story and asked if anyone could be of assistance. And she revealed that before long her phone “started to explode.”
Over 25 pilots offered to fly Booth over the Louisville area. In the end, they organized the flight with one out of Bowman Airport in St. Matthews. By February 25, the day had finally arrived – and Booth confessed that he was nervous, as well as eager, to get on board. “I’m getting one wish granted, but I’m hoping for a parachute too,” he quipped at the time.
Booth arrived to Bowman Field, assisted by a cane, Hoffman and his son, Brian. He and his son boarded the plane and took the 30-minute flight together, as Hoffman watched from the runway in tears. And after they had landed safely, Brian revealed that his father even got the chance to try his hand at piloting the aircraft.
“It was priceless,” Brian said. “He has never done anything like that. He actually took the steering wheel and flew for a bit. To me, it was nice to see, to him it was great.” During the flight, Booth had been able to see his old auto repair shop from the sky.
Booth looked happy as he disembarked the plane and revealed that he was grateful to his medical team for getting him up in the air. “It was an experience,” he said. “It’s a different world all together up there.” Afterward, the group gathered around while the pilot said a prayer for the cancer patient.
Before heading home, Booth said, “It was a good day.” He continued visits with his doctor in the weeks following the flight. And Hoffman revealed that he had been a true inspiration in reminding her how important it is to live life to the fullest.
“He has a lot of pain, but he doesn’t complain about it,” Hoffman stated. “He’s trying to make the most of the time he has left. That’s something we should all do.”
The story was shared through several media outlets. And soon it became clear that Booth had touched, not only Hoffman and Rezazadeh, but also people he had never met. “Well done. I loved reading this. Kind folks,” one commenter posted via Facebook.
Another social media user agreed that the generosity of Booth’s medical team and the pilot shows what an impact a thoughtful gesture can leave. “I’m so happy when people do for others,” they wrote. “This is truly what life is about. Love in its simplest form.”
Booth was able to live out his childhood dream at the age of 69. But sadly, following his experience of flying in a plane, his health continued to decline. He passed away at home on April 5, 2018, a few weeks after fulfilling his dying wish.
A service was held at Scott Funeral Home in Jefferson five days after his death. While Booth will certainly be missed, it’s clear that he has left a lasting impression on the people that knew him. And he also left them with some words of wisdom to follow.
When asked what his guidance to others would be, Booth told Courier Journal, “Try to do as much as you can. And don’t give up at all. You’ll find yourself going into a hole you don’t want to be in if you do.”