HEATH, Ohio (WCMH) — A local central Ohio community is grieving after the death of Heath High School Athletic Director Ellis Booth

Booth, 56, died from complications due to COVID-19 just over a week after he was admitted to the Licking Memorial Hospital.

Booth served as athletic director since 2016, but he worked in the school district for two decades, including 10 years as the high school principal.

“It is a really hard day and people are just sad,” said Heath High School Principal Kat Fields. “One of our veteran staff members asked people if they had been hired by Mr. Booth to raise their hand and it was an overwhelming majority.”

A majority that included Fields who was hired for her first teaching job by Booth when he was the school’s principal. Heath Superintendent Dr. Trevor Thomas was also hired by Booth as an assistant principal and athletic director, a job the school district separated in 2016.

“He was a listener, he spoke when he needed to speak,” Dr. Thomas said. “He was a tremendous mentor to me personally.”

He was a mentor to many, including Tim Ward and Devin Fulk who Booth hired as teachers and later as head coaches.

“He wanted what was best for kids, he wanted what was best for the community and that will be his lasting legacy,” said Fulk, Heath’s boys’ basketball head coach.

“He really helped the athletic department grow, and I think a lot of that is due in part to his fatherly guidance of a lot of us coaches,” said Ward, Heath’s head football coach.

And his guidance extended far beyond the athletic department.

“When COVID happened and we needed to make decisions, our team listened to him like I’ve never seen them listen to him before because he was able to think about things rationally and he was wise,” Thomas said.

Booth graduated from Ohio State with a BS in social studies education and received his education administration masters from Ashland. Booth taught at London and Delaware Hayes before taking a job at Heath in 2001.

“The [community] will see in the coming days, months, years what all he had a hand in and so I think he will be remembered for being a loyal, hard-working servant to the community,” Fields said.

Booth’s passion and love for athletics ran deep, but nothing equaled the love he had for his wife, Debbie, and two children, Payton and Madison.