Monday, October 16, 2017

Billie Frank: Santa Fe Ambassador Will Be Missed

I opened my Facebook page a week ago and saw a post from Steve Collins, a dear Santa Fe friend. It read in part, "Billie died yesterday." Those words hit me hard. I recoiled. And then I thought... this is a cruel scam. But, no, it wasn't. It was real. Life, and death, had just changed my day. It was probably an hour before the shock wore off and I burst into tears.

My first thought was about Steve, her devoted husband and life partner. How could he deal with this unexpected tragedy? My heart went out to him.

Billie and Steve in Taos
I first encountered Billie and Steve when I was reading about Santa Fe in the now defunct I was considering moving to Santa Fe and I was considering writing about my experiences for I enjoyed reading Billie's narratives about life in Santa Fe. And so I contacted her.

She had decided she was too busy to continue writing the Santa Fe column for Examiner and welcomed my applying for the slot. And she became an instant friend, advising me on Santa Fe and sharing my joy as I moved to "The City Different."

And, move, I did. One of the first couples to invite me to their home for dinner was Billie and Steve. I found the house in a neighborhood in my new town. They invited me in. The decor was decidedly Southwest, and Billie's collection of pottery fit in well. Billie and I chatted as Steve cooked. Steve, an accomplished chef, usually cooked when I visited. He enjoyed making creative dishes to suit Billie's diet. And, his food suited my palate just wonderfully.

And so went our friendship. We reviewed restaurants together, took some day trips to explore the surrounding area and chatted about the ups and downs of travel writing. Sometimes Billie didn't feel very well. She had allergies and was dealing with some immune issues. But she had a zest for life and for exploring the West despite these maladies. And she inspired others to follow in her traveling footsteps with her writing.
I appreciated dining with Steve and Billie.
They never made me feel like a "third wheel!"
I enjoyed running into Billie and Steve at gallery openings, Santa Fe markets, and press events. It was always nice to see them.

I'm sure there's a good Billie quote I should put here!

We bundled up and met on Christmas Eve to walk Canyon Road. Billie and Steve took me under their wings and showed me their favorite galleries and explained the holiday traditions. And we had fun!

On one particularly memorable evening, we watched the sun set from the hilltop home where they were living... savoring the scenery and the high desert beauty. Steve bar-b-qued and we chatted. We were all living the good life in Santa Fe.

I enjoyed hosting Billie and Steve at my home too and, on my last evening in Santa Fe before moving back to Washington State, they joined other friends and me for a pizza dinner and fantastic Caesar Salad made by another good Santa Fe friend, John. It was a good send-off.

But sometimes we don't get the chance to tie up loose ends and say good-bye. It was that way for all who loved Billie Frank. Our last communications were about restaurant reviews and photographs. She was searching for photos to accompany yet another article she was working on. She was always appreciative of my "free for a friend" editing services and my photos. I followed her travels and was happy to see she was enjoying Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Sunset from my trip to Pagosa Springs
She was always willing to share her thoughts and feelings even when frustrated with technological glitches (most always caused by Mercury going retrograde.) They say Mercury retrograde is all about slowing down and being more mindful. Communication is more difficult (but not impossible) during a Mercury retrograde period. And I never knew about this until I met Billie.

It is because of Facebook and email that I was able to have an ongoing friendship with Billie and Steve. I loved her recaps of happenings in Santa Fe. It was a great way to keep in touch... those Tidbits!
Another fun restaurant review!
I'm missing Billie. I'm missing her long black outfits and her long necklace with the turquoise pendant she wore all the time... and her red hair with the attitude to match it.

If I could talk to Billie, I'd say, thank you so much for being a friend, and sharing your passion for the Southwest with me. I am certain there is a void in beautiful Santa Fe. You were an amazing ambassador for the city and represented the Santa Fe vibe so well.