A Tribute to Frank Abel…

by Cynthia


I first met Frank at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe the middle of October, 2013. We were both there to meet Forrest and listen to him talk about his new book, Too Far to Walk. The store was milling with people… I knew no one, but took a seat in the first row below the stage where a chair and microphone had been placed for Forrest. Frank sat down beside me, and we began chatting. As I look back, I recall it was an instant friendship. You know, sometimes you meet someone and immediately like them…no particular reason that you can pinpoint. When Forrest finished speaking, we hung out together, met Forrest, had our pictures taken with him, and made plans to go on a treasure hunt together the following year. He was from the Phoenix area and made two trips a year to New Mexico to search.

Fast forward to July 2014. Frank had studied his maps throughout the winter and had some good ideas about where we should go. I was accompanying him; I was his partner but I had agreed to go with him whereever he chose. We headed to San Pedro Parks Wilderness where there were plenty of waterfalls (heavy loads, water high). We found a few but never did find Echo Falls and planned to meet again the following day and hike the fishing streams in the Valles Caldera.

The biddies behind the desk that morning were not friendly for two people carrying large cameras and asking for permits to go to the fishing streams. They said there were no vacancies…we tried to get a hiking permit. Nada, not that day. I knew the area well so drove to the Las Conchas Trailhead (outside the Valles Caldera boundary) where the plan was to walk back that canyon to Alamo Bog.


Frank and I didn’t find Fenn’s treasure trove that day, but I think those couple days together were the bonding moments for us. I realized that day what a real trooper he was…he was about to turn 72 years old the following month and had just had a second hip replacement a few months prior and still had the determination to get out into the wilderness and smell the sunshine.

Three years have passed since our first meeting at the bookstore. He and I searched at least half a dozen times, spent several days together making my movie in July 2015, attended two Fennborees, and chatted anxiously on the phone once a month or more, catching each other up on our daily activities but mostly discussing where we’d search next.

The last time I saw Frank was in Santa Fe in July where Sacha and I had met him and his wife at La Fonda for drinks and dinner. Over the course of the evening, Sacha and I made plans to attend the Santa Fe Opera and tried talking Frank into going with us. It was comical listening to Frank deliver all his excuses why he couldn’t go…mostly because he hated operas. None of us knew then the horrible news that would be delivered to Frank in late September…he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

I received this horrible, extremely disturbing news just last month…his wife left a message on my voice mail that Frank was not doing well, and we needed to talk, not voice-message, not email. We finally connected…it was not good.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I thought of Frank constantly. I wanted to call him but didn’t know if he wanted to talk. I wanted to email him but didn’t know what to write. Finally, Sunday night I decided I absolutely had to send him an email and reach out to him…to let him know I cared, thought of him constantly, and was here if he wanted to talk or write to vent to me…I mean, if I thought I was healthy only to hear I had pancreatic cancer, I would be MAD. I would need someone to vent to, to cuss to…

I received an immediate reply from his wife…Frank had passed away five days prior. I was devastated…

So, Frank, if you can “see” this… I am so sorry I never made more effort to call you… I didn’t think you’d be able to understand my words through my tears.

I am so sorry I never made myself email you… I didn’t think I could find the right words to console you.

But mostly, I am so sorry I never got to say good-bye. You were a true friend, a fellow Fenn-treasure hunter who believed in Forrest and the adventure he created for the Indiana Jones in all of us.

Frank was surrounded by family when he passed away. Hopefully, he is now hanging out with his younger daughter who died in a car crash a few days after her 16th birthday, many decades ago. Maybe he’s sharing his search stories with Randy, or Renelle…
All I know for sure is that he will be missed!
Here is a link to a brief tribute to Frank:

Fennboree 2016

Frank with Forrest at Fennboree 2016


45 thoughts on “A Tribute to Frank Abel…

  1. Beautiful Cynthia, another reminder how short this life can be. Thank you for posting, Frank was one of those special guys. I also waited to long and now will be forever regretful. He was the type of person who you immediately liked, the kind of man it felt good to be around.
    Frank will be missed by many, and was lucky to have a friend like you if only for a moment.

  2. From the sounds of it, Frank was truly a special person. My thoughts and prayers go out to all that grieve at his passing into the next realm.

  3. Nice tribute to Frank Cynthia and a reminder to us all to focus on the important things in life.

    If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.

  4. Beautiful tribute to Frank, Cynthia. There are people who come and go into one’s life and then there are those you never forget.

  5. Thank you cynthia for a fine tribute for Frank and thank you Forrest for giving Frank hope and the gift of “the smell of sunshine”.
    Until we meet again ” goodbye Frank “.


  6. Cynthia,

    As Frank continues on in the journey; it’s clear that he kindly remembered to place bright and warm memories in the back pack of a friend.


  7. I’m so sorry to hear the news about Frank.
    Such a kind and generous man…
    I love the video tribute, Cynthia… Quite moving and beautifully done.
    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Very nicely done Cindy! Frank was a very kind and generous person. Thank you so much for introducing us. He was a pleasure to be around and I was happy to call him my friend.
    We will miss him. RIP

  9. Cynthia – A very touching tribute. It all boils down to our relationship with our maker, our fellow man, and the land. Savor the memories you made with Frank. Once again I’m reminded of how you befriend others on this wonderful chase. Be blessed!

  10. What a lovely tribute to Frank and your friendship, Cynthia. Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to have met him, he is a familiar face to me in the Chase and I’m sure I would have liked him immediately as well. Condolences to his family and our family of searchers.

  11. I am very sorry for your loss, Cynthia, and my sympathies go out to the family. I recall in the video that you guys made that he said one of the things that drew him to the treasure hunt is that he had never taken the opportunity to explore the wilderness, and that he was enjoying hiking and seeing more of New Mexico. Hopefully it brings some comfort that you were able to share these things that he enjoyed late in life, and that he was able to do them despite the physical challenges he overcame.

  12. Very nice video tribute. Thank you for sharing. To all of Frank’s family and friends my heartfelt prayers and condolences go to you all.

  13. I never met Frank, but your tribute to him makes me wish I had. A nice remembrance of Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah) who we also lost recently as well. Very well done. Thank you.

  14. Cynthia, you knew Frank personally. Rest with the efforts to help him search and explore counted most of all. Looks like he found the “joie de vivre.” Lucky man.

  15. Cynthia, you did a beautiful job with this tribute. I’m very sorry for the loss of your friend. Your words & video show it’s never too late to regain an appreciation for adventure & the beauty of nature. Frank was fortunate to discover a friend & fellow explorer in you. Thoughts & prayers go out to his family.

  16. Frank Able is now missed in my world. It had not taken too long for me to know Frank as a good man. I respected what he had to say when he spoke. It was my pleasure to introduce my son to him. “Stephen, this is Frank. I consider him to be a very wise man and if he offers you any advise, take it. Frank, this is my son, Stephen.” Frank is one man whom I respected. It is no wonder Cynthia connected with Frank. He was a great conversationalist with good touch of class. I’m thankful for having met Frank. May he rest in peace.

  17. Cynthia, my deepest condolences. When we write our feelings for all to see, they help to heal the heart.
    I didn’t know Frank, but from your special video tribute, I feel that I was privileged to take a peek at a man who loved life.
    I’m thankful that he was able to enjoy The Chase with you.
    He’s not gone forever, he just reached the end of this worldly journey and is enjoying the beginning of the next one.

  18. the loss of one adventurous spirit, is a loss to every spirited adventurer.

    my sincere condolences to all of Franks family and friends.

  19. Everyone,
    Thank you so much for your condolences and kind words.
    I received this email from Frank’s wife:
    “What a beautiful tribute to Frank. You truly captured him during the last few years and it will help me to watch this and remember him during this time. You were a great friend and I always felt that he was being taken care of during your hikes. Thank you for preparing such a memorable video.”
    I sent this link to her so she also can read all your kind words. Thanks again.

  20. Cynthia … thank you for sharing Frank’s love of treasure hunting with us. I’m sure it was a blessing for both of you to meet each other.

  21. Cynthia,
    Thank you for sharing your memory of Frank. What’s important is that you thought of him and cared. You shared your time with him. This memory will always be here. Take care!

  22. Cynthia,

    Your video was very emotional to me. I will not lie – I shed a few tears.

    You obviously cared very deeply for Frank.

    Scott W.

  23. Cynthia,

    I have a link to share regarding Frank, but thought you should be the one to post it ( if you chose to do so). You should be the one to decide, but I think it could be rather nice.

    email me at scottdogtexas@gmail.com if you want the link.

    Scott W.

  24. Cynthia,
    I can feel your pain in your writings. You know, it sounded like you two clicked from the first meeting.. Well maybe Frank held it in because he thought that you were a really true friend. We try to protect our closest friends and family but what we don’t realize is they are there to help. Just to listen, here him say why, let him talk until he feels better or falls asleep. I haven’t had the chance to get to meet you but for the last 3 years just reading what you have to say makes a very deep impression inside of me. You are not just a plain person, what you write speaks to who ever is listening. Frank will miss you also, along with the others. Just every once in a while think of them before you go hiking in the mountains, the close calls will now be you safe haven as you have your guarding angels. Except that and smile and don’t forget to thank them.
    Take care Cynthia

  25. Cynthia,

    I’m sure Frank knew how you felt about him and understood. Your shared experiences must have meant a lot to him as well.

    I’m lucky to have met Frank this year at Fennboree and at your camp site. Thank you for your video and your willingness to share.


  26. I just now saw this post Cynthia. It saddens me when we lose one of us searchers. I’m thankful to have met you both at Fennboree and that Frank made the most of his last years here on Earth getting to know it. I’m glad y’all had a special friendship and wish more people in the chase would. Prayers for his friends and family.

  27. Thanks for putting that together Cynthia , I really at this time can’t find the words to share with you all . My Daughter in Law at age 22 now
    was told she has cancer . December 2nd- she went into surgery . She is doing well right now . We won’t know weather or not they got it all out . We should know in a few days.
    My heart goes out to the family for their loss, to all searchers , and to all who have stood in then face of this hideous illness .
    May God bless you and Keep you

    Mike , Heather , and Family

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