Business Owner Alvin E. Booker Dies at 90

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The scene has become iconic, a cultural motif and even an internet meme.

In it, an elderly person falls on the floor and utters the now-famous words: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Alvin E. Booker, an entrepreneur who started several companies including one that sold medical alert devices, died on July 25 in his home in Malibu, Calif. at the age of 90. He lived most of his life in the Philadelphia area, where he started a family and owned several businesses.


Alvin E. Booker | Photo provided

To the world, Booker’s legacy might stem from his buying the rights to purchase Med-a-Lert, a pioneer of many of today’s medical alert systems such as Life Alert. Booker’s wife of 66 years, Janice Lekoff Booker, said the device’s first advertisement, which included that famous phrase, was even filmed in their home’s entryway.

But to her, Booker was first and foremost a family man.

He and Janice met as teenagers through their work in Jewish organizations, her in B’nai B’rith Girls and him in Aleph Zadik Aleph, an “extremely conventional and appropriate way,” Janice Booker said.

“He was extremely, extremely intelligent,” she said. “He started at Temple when he was only 16. I just enjoyed conversations with him, and I asked him all kinds of questions about natural phenomena. He called me every night on the telephone, and we would talk about any philosopher I might be studying. It was just very connective conversations we would have.”

Med-a-Lert was not Booker’s only entrepreneurial enterprise.

After graduating from Temple University and from a social psychology graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, Booker started publishing regional business magazines with his wife, who was his business partner until they had their kids, though she continued to remain involved.

Booker also started a transcription service called Secrephone, which employed stay-at-home moms to type dictated messages. After he saw a need for this kind of service in health care, the company branched out into transcriptions of medical reports for doctors and hospitals.

Booker was a problem solver, said Ellis Booker, his son. He and his sister grew up in a home with thousands of books on countless topics, from Kabbalah to the history of ancient Rome. The Bookers were constantly lending out books, so Booker designed a library system for their home to keep track of them.

A few years ago, Booker’s health started to deteriorate. At one point, when Booker was wheelchair-bound, Ellis and a handyman were trying to figure out how to put a Hoyer Lift on his parents’ bed.

Then, Booker put his hand to his mouth — “very Talmudically,” Ellis Booker said — and offered a nonsensical solution.

“He was still sort of coming up with novel solutions to things, even a few months before he died,” Ellis said. “That shows the capacity of his intellect. He was always seeking solutions. It was neat for me to see that that spark was still there.”

Booker is survived by his wife, Janice; his children, Ellis Carl (Erin) Booker and Susan Barbara (Jerry Shevick) Booker; and grandchildren Sam Booker, George Booker, Truman Shevick and Ivy Shevick. 

szighelboim@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0719

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