Boomeresque:Definition
1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

Remembering Travel Blogger Billie Frank and a Friendship Forged on Facebook

by Suzanne Fluhr on October 15, 2017 · 41 comments

Remembering Billie’s joie de vivre. Billie with her beloved husband, Steve Collins. Together they created the successful Santa Fe Travelers blog.

Like many baby boomers, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, sometimes both loving and hating it on the same day.

As a travel blogger, I understand that an active social media presence is an important part of getting the word out, of proving one’s “influence”. Sometimes, this imperative to be “out there” bumps up against my desire to be in the moment, rather than observing, describing, recording and sharing the moment. I feel a little guilty that I’ve trained my partner in life and travel, Mr. Excitement, to pause before enjoying an attractive meal to ask me if I “need” a photo of his plate.

On the other hand, social media has helped me become a more extroverted introvert. I have connected, and re-connected, with people from all over the world and from long ago layers of my life.

I now know more about some people from the old neighborhood where I grew up than I did when I lived across the street. I am friends with classmates from high school who I barely knew (or didn’t know at all) from back in the day at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. The nerdy orchestra woodwind player group was kind of small.

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve rediscovered classmates from when we lived in England in 1969-70 where my father was an exchange teacher.

On Facebook, I reconnected with my long ago Colombian host family from when I studied in Bogota in 1974, and learned that my goofy teenage Colombian “brother” grew up to be a radiologist and professor of medicine.

I was so far from being a “cool” person during my college days that in my college year book, my picture appears on the last page with a loooong ago ex-husband captioned “guess who”. Now, former college classmates know (and appear amused concerned) that I can’t seem to keep track of my favorite travel black cardigan.

It has been gratifying to find that because of my blog induced low social media privacy settings, some of my Facebook friends have become friends of friends, forging their own online relationships with each other.

Billie and one of her boomer travel bloggers, Susan Moore of Solo Trips and Tips

It is popular to decry the human intimacy we have lost from being on social media rather than out meeting up with “real” friends. This week, I was reminded of how real a friendship initially made on Facebook can be. Sadly, this reminder came in the form of a Facebook posting by Steve Collins, the husband of travel blogger, Billie Frank.

On Facebook, Steve shared the very sad news that he was devastated “yesterday” by Billie’s unexpected, sudden death. Judging by the numerous heartfelt comments under his Facebook post, I’m not the only person feeling a visceral sense of loss at this news. As confirmation that on line relationships can be important, many of those commenting about what Billie meant to them, started their comment with”I only knew Billie online, but……”

Billie Frank and Suzanne Fluhr

Neither of us loved this photo at the time, but now I’m happy to have it

I met Billie when I was a baby novice travel blogger and stumbled upon a Facebook group she administered for boomer travel bloggers. Our first interaction was when she gently chided me for posting something outside the group posting guidelines. Note to selfalways read Facebook group posting guidelines. I’m not sure of the date, but it was long enough ago that Billie and I were trying to figure out whether we should care about our blogs’ Alexa ratings.

I soon realized how engaged and giving Billie was in running that group and in helping us forge connections. I met Billie and her husband, Steve Collins, IRL (in real life) when Mr. Excitement and I made our first ever trip to trip to New Mexico in 2013.  She and Steve met us for dinner in their beloved Santa Fe. They even graciously took us to an Italian restaurant, of all places, given my pathetic inability to tolerate chile filled cuisine.

Billie Frank and Elaine Masters

Billie meeting up with travel blogger, Elaine Masters, publisher of Trip Well Gal

Mr. Excitement was relieved to learn Billie’s husband’s name was Steve since that’s also Mr. E’s real name, thus vastly increasing the chances he would remember Billie’s Steve’s name. After that meeting, Billie and I always referred to our husbands as “your Steve” or “my Steve”. Billie chided me occasionally for not referring to my Steve as “Dr. Excitement”. She felt he had earned the title.

Billie and Elizabeth Rose

Billie bundled up to meet travel blogger, Elizabeth Rose.

During our time together, Billie told me she was spending a lot of time and energy running the Boomer Travel Bloggers Facebook group and asked if I would help out as her co-administrator. I agreed and ever since, she and I were in contact, via Facebook or Facebook messenger, at least every week, if not daily.

Given Billie’s warmth, our communications were often personal rather than business related. Recently, when I became travel editor at the Midlife Boulevard blog and was scrambling for content, Billie graciously agreed to take the time to be interviewed for one of my weekly posts. I re-read that post now with a lump in my throat.

Billie Frank, Steve Collins and Kristen Henning and Tom Bartel

Billie and Steve meeting up with another travel blogging couple, Kristen Henning and Tom Bartel, publishers of Travel Past 50.

So, thanks to Facebook, I met and became friends with Billie Frank. I’ll always feel a pang at her absence when someone on Facebook blames some misfortune on Mercury being in retrograde, Billie’s “go to” explanation when things went awry. And thanks to Facebook, there will be a frequent reminder of the void in my life where her voice used to be.

How do you feel about Facebook and social media in general? For those who had the good fortune to know Billie Frank, please share your thoughts and memories. If you have photos to share, put the link in a comment and I’ll add them here. 

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Cathy Sweeney October 15, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Beautiful tribute to Billie and reflections in our social media lives and friendships. I was totally shocked to hear that Billie had passed away and sad that I hadn’t been closer. I hope that “her Steve” will find comfort in knowing how much this travel blogging community admired and respected her.

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avatar Gaelyn October 15, 2017 at 11:38 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I too only knew Billie online yet liked her immensely. Social media has brought many new people into my life, both virtually and in real time. I am grateful either way.

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avatar Donna Meyer October 16, 2017 at 12:07 am

Suzanne, you have written a lovely tribute to Billie. We had never met IRL, but were looking forward to it. Either I was going to go to Santa Fe or she and Steve were coming back to San Miguel. FB friends can, indeed, be real friends. And Billie was a real one to many of us. Thanks for writing this.

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avatar Anita @ No Particular Place to Go October 16, 2017 at 3:57 am

Such a lovely way to honor Billie’s memory, Suzanne. Hers/Your group, Boomer Travel Bloggers, has introduced me to so many wonderful bloggers that I keep in touch with and I find it hard sometimes, to distinguish my virtual online friends from those IRL. (I find myself explaining to my husband, “You know, I’ve talked about blankety-blank from blankety-blank who writes blankety-blank” many times!) Billie will be missed by many who knew her only through her writing of life’s adventures and places she’d discovered and enjoyed but, how much more ‘real’ can you get than that?

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avatar Rachel Heller October 16, 2017 at 6:54 am

Thank you for this! I’m one of those who only knew her online, but her personality certainly shone through! It’s slower, but real friendships can indeed form through online platforms like Facebook groups.

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avatar Judy Freedman October 16, 2017 at 8:36 am

A lovely tribute to Billie. I never met her but from my brief interactions in the Facebook group, she was such a giving person. So sad about her passing. It’s a reminder to live in the moment and cherish every day.

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avatar Sonja October 16, 2017 at 9:02 am

What a lovely tribute. And funny how a photo you dislike can become a gift later. And as an introvert I got everything you said about FB. You and I met via blogging. And look…. we’ve visited each other, you were a guest at our wedding… amazing. And my friends are also friends! I love that ripple effect so much. AS someone who lost her dad early (he was 56 – the age my husband turns next month – woa…) I have learned the truth of Carpe diem.

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avatar Roz Warren October 16, 2017 at 9:26 am

Very moving, and a reminder that a FB-based friendship can be as “real” as any other.

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avatar Sue Reddel October 16, 2017 at 9:34 am

Thanks Suzanne for sharing this lovely tribute to Billie. Although I never met her in person I really enjoyed “meeting” her through Boomer facebook group. She always made me chuckle. I thank Facebook for introducing me to the many friends I would have otherwise never had the chance to meet. Yourself included.

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avatar Donna Janke October 16, 2017 at 9:57 am

I too only knew Billie online, but was saddened to hear about her sudden death. I will miss her. Her warmth showed through even in cyberspace. I was looking forward to meeting her in person someday when we travelled through Santa Fe again and I know she would have given us a very warm welcome. This post is a lovely tribute. I too will think of Billie when someone is annoyed at Mercury in retrograde!

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avatar Debbra Dunning Brouillette October 16, 2017 at 10:20 am

I corresponded a lot with Billie way back in 2010 when we were both beginning our travel writing careers for Examiner.com. We were in a group who encouraged and supported each other and we remained Facebook friends long after Examiner was no more. I appreciated her love of New Mexico and while I haven’t yet visited the state when I make it there I am sure I will think of Billie Frank…

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avatar Elizabeth Rose October 16, 2017 at 10:22 am

Thank you for writing this. My time living in Santa Fe was enriched by having Billie and Steve for friends. I have so many good memories. I was shocked by the news…. but, after a week, I’m finding I enjoy these remembrances and appreciate the pictures, even the unflattering ones… after all, they are just snaps of moments in our lives. And life is precious. I, too, appreciate the sharing we have on Facebook.

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avatar Karen Warren October 16, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Like many people I seem to have built up a network of virtual friends on Facebook. I only “met” Billie through the FB Boomer group and the occasional exchange on Messenger, but I felt that I knew her, and I was shocked and saddened when I heard the news.

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avatar Paula E Kiger October 16, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Oh, I didn’t know her but this makes me wish I had! Social has also made me a more extroverted introvert, and with very few odd exceptions, I am grateful.

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avatar Karen BakingInATornado October 16, 2017 at 1:50 pm

I truly feel that it is up to us to tailor our social media experiences in ways that most benefit us. By doing this weeding out, we’re more apt to find the true gens (yeah, mixed metaphor). You found one in Billie and I’ve found a number myself. I’m sorry for your loss.

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avatar Janice Chung October 16, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Suzanne, what a lovely tribute to Billie. I, like many others, only knew Billie through the Facebook group and when she was asking “techy” questions, I enjoyed helping her out. Because of her blog, I was much more interested in her neck of the woods than I would have been. That’s what Facebook and travel blogs have done for me. She will be sadly missed and I still can’t believe she’s gone. Thank you for writing about her and the impact FB has made…it’s impacted my life too.

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avatar Irene S. Levine October 16, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for writing this post and providing this forum for sharing. Like everyone who has commented before me, it was shock to learn about Billie’s passing, too soon and too suddenly. Because of you and Billie, I feel like I have a community of fellow travel writers. That is just one legacy of her friendship!

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avatar Shobha October 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm

A beautiful tribute. Thank you for being so articulate. I never met Billie IRL but corresponded on FB. She was kind and supportive and I was shocked to hear of her passing, since the Billie I knew only briefly was a whirl of activity.

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avatar Patti Morrow October 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

That was such a nice tribute. I’m still shocked at the news. It was just a little over a week ago that Billie PM’d me to get my contact for a weekend destination that she and Steve were planning for November. I will always appreciate the work she did to keep our boomer group going.

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avatar Suzanne Stavert October 16, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Suzanne, Thank you so much for the beautiful tribute to Billie. As others have said you both provided a community of new friends I would have never met without your efforts. I am really sad for her loss and I wish Steve comfort during this unimaginable and difficult time.

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avatar Alyson Long October 16, 2017 at 8:49 pm

Same same. I never me her but it’s always nice to see someone regularly contributing to the online hum of Facebook. I have it switched on all day, every day if I’m at home. It’s usually running in the background while I’m working on something ( travel blogger, our only income is now our websites, busy supporting a family through “wasting” my time on social media) and that little bit of distraction and human engagement is fun. So thanks Billie, you, Layla and everyone else who keeps the Facebook chat going. I enjoy all of your contributions enormously. And as I said, Facebook isn’t the same without her. And thanks to Mr E and Dino too.:)

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 17, 2017 at 12:28 am

Alyson, I think of all my Facebook travel blogger friends, you’re the one with the biggest love-hate relationship with Facebook. 😉

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avatar Michelle October 16, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to our friend. She was always helpful to me and gave him tips when I was traveling. She will be missed by many!

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avatar Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski October 16, 2017 at 11:31 pm

I’m sorry I never met her or knew about her Facebook group, but she sounds like a lovely person. So sorry for your loss.

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avatar Patti Maghamfar October 17, 2017 at 6:35 am

Well-said, Suzanne.

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avatar Linda October 17, 2017 at 9:43 am

The best thing about Facebook and social media is the worldwide connection to kindred spirits that opens up to you – Without it I’d have not ‘met’ you – nor Billie – nor so many other Boomers!
My life has certainly been the richer for these connections – Billie will be sadly missed.

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avatar Barbara October 17, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Such a lovely tribute, Suzanne. Wish I’d known about her blog. I often live vicariously through travel bloggers.
b

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avatar Nan October 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm

I’ve e-met some of the most amazing people I’m proud to call Not-IRL friends, including you. I’ve met people who have become so real I have to remind myself I’ve never even met them IRL. I did not know your Billie but she sounds like a fascinating and wonderful person. Because I live in the boonies, so while I am now working on not allowing social media to overtake my life, I am glad to be connected to the world out there through people like you. Thank you for being an inspiration in my life.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 17, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Nan, thank you. That is a lovely thing for you to say and I feel the same way.

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avatar Phoenicia October 18, 2017 at 3:02 am

What a beautiful write up. I did not know of Billie Frank but I now feel I have had a little insight into her life.

We can make friendships online especially when part of smaller groups. I too have a love and dislike for social media. As a blogger I understand the importance of being present and am on FB, Instagram and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is by far my favourite. I tend to wade in and out of Instagram and FB.

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avatar Zoë Dawes October 18, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Beautifully written from the heart Suzanne. You reflect so much of what I also feel about Facebook, cyber friendship and especially Billie. She was a generous, kind, witty and very special person who I never met in person yet felt a strong connection with. She’s touched so many as is clear from here and other places and her spirit lives on in us all.

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avatar Christina McMahon October 18, 2017 at 4:42 pm

Nice, Suzanne! This is not only a tribute to your beautiful friend, but thoughtful reflection on what it means to be an “introvert” in the digital age. So many beautiful things can come from connections online. (I met my husband on a meditation app!!!). PS Are you from Philly? I went to St. Joe’s for college, and I’m from Reading 🙂

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avatar Doreen Pendgracs October 18, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Thx for the great post, Suzanne. I only knew Billie online, but always found her to be fair, friendly and full of knowledge. I love the friendships we can forge online, and especially love it when we turn that virtual relationship into a real friendship, as when you and I met in Hawaii a few years ago. We travel bloggers have a very wonderful and unique community. So pleased to be a part of it.

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avatar Kerwin October 18, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Suzanne,

It’s weird as I never met Billie in person, but due to Facebook, I feel like I know here personally as we interacted a lot in the Facebook Groups and on her personal page.

I remember her Tech struggles and the fun convos we had trying to rectify them.

I’m not a fan of posting about deaths on Facebook as for me its too personal, but kind of O.K. with finding out about this one on Facebook as I would have been wondering what happened to her when I no longer saw her fun posts.

I know death for us all is imminent, but it is weird when someone you know virtually dies and you now know you’ll never really meet them in real life…

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 20, 2017 at 12:33 am

I understand how you feel about posting something so personal about a loss on Facebook. That’s why my reaction to Billie’s passing made me also want to write about Facebook since that is how we first connected, and clearly, how she connected with many people who are genuinely saddened to lose her presence—even if they never met her in real life.

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avatar Jeannette Paladino October 18, 2017 at 11:10 pm

I can understand your sense of loss. I’ve made good friends on social media, although yet to meet them in person. but I care about them and I think they care about me. The feelings are genuine and I so wish i could meet some of them in person.

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avatar William Rusho October 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Social Media, Facebook etc, lets us expand our world of friends. By doing this, it also expands the possibility of loosing them.
I know for me, it was Jacqueline Gum, who was a blogger and author and helped me early in my writing.
It is hard to say goodbye to people, even harder when their is a computer and internet between you.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 20, 2017 at 12:35 am

Thank you for mentioning Jacqui Gum. Even when she stopped writing her own blog posts to concentrate on other writing, she must have subscribed to my blog and unfailingly posted a sincere comment every time I published a post, including 2 days before she passed away. I wasn’t even aware she was terminally ill, so reading the obituary she wrote herself was very, very sad. I would have loved to have met her in real life. Her personality shone through her writing.

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avatar Leyla Giray Alyanak October 19, 2017 at 6:47 pm

What a shock! I read a comment from her no more than days ago! I had never met Billie in person but then, living in rural France means at least half (if not more) of my friends are virtual – but to me they’re friends in the same way they would be if we were meeting for a coffee… thank you for this thoughtful post, on Billie, on the importance of friendship and on the increasing role social media plays in our lives.

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avatar Catarina October 20, 2017 at 5:23 am

Can relate to what you write because someone I developed an online friendship with died years ago. I really missed him and published an article dedicated to him. It’s interesting isn’t it that we can develop close ties so someone we have never met which was the case with my late online friend.

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avatar Elaine Masters October 21, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Love-hate with social media here too. I so enjoyed visiting with Billie & Steve when they came to San Diego. Then they house-sat once & we continued our conversations online. She was so passionate about life & made me laugh often with her wry, fearless wit. So sorry she’s gone & I hold her family in my heart. It’s hard losing loved ones, especially too soon & suddenly. Thanks for writing this & the picture too.

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