Friend, colleague, journalist, author, voracious reader, poet, and Mountain View Publishing contributor, Frank Dabbs, died April 25. He was 72.
He was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia to Baptist missionary parents, raised in Toronto, Collingwood and Orillia. After completing high school in Orillia in 1966, he hitchhiked to Calgary and secured a job working seismic with Hudson Bay Oil and Gas. Frank’s seismic career was cut short when he enrolled at the University of Calgary in 1967 graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1972 with a major in playwriting.
He worked for the CBC, was a TV host and became a respected oil and gas writer for the Albertan – predecessor to the Calgary Sun, the Calgary Sun, The Calgary Herald and Oilweek. He was a regular contributor to Alberta Views and Alberta Venture.
Frank’s peerless reputation garnered writing positions with major oil companies. It also offered a life-changing introduction to oil and gas production executive Florence Murphy. A blissful 20-year marriage dovetailed into an idyllic retirement in Georgian Bay, Ont. until Florence Murphy-Dabbs succumbed to cancer at 63.
In Florence’s honour, Frank introduced an Olds College bursary, and named a bench and bridge after her at the College’s Botanical Gardens and Constructed Wetlands.
In 2013, shortly after Florence’s death, Frank wrote a tribute to Florence for the Globe and Mail -- a beautifully crafted, heart-felt testament to his wife. When my father died last July, Frank sent me a touching note of consolation – it still means a lot. He and my dad had known each other when they both worked in the oil industry in Calgary in the 1980s.
Frank never really left Alberta – business and friendships lured him back on a regular basis. Florence’s untimely death hastened his return. He settled in Didsbury – buying a house with adequate space to accommodate his 8,000 books. Years prior, he’d filled in as Sundre editor when Dan Singleton took a summer vacation.
He’d been a regular columnist in the Albertan and Mountain View Gazette and was editor of the Didsbury Review in 2015. He remained in Didsbury until his death.
Frank had a reputation as a hard-working, talented writer. Tenacity – writing four hours a day – and an innate ability to research the right material. He mentored young journalists offering sage, patient advice and shared in their successes.
His columns ran the gamut, but were often political – offering local, provincial and federal insight. Frank had many fans, but those less inclined offered dissenting views – often by email, phone or letter. Like all great columnists, Frank wasn’t afraid to take a stance nor suffer the consequences.
Frank’s last column ran posthumously in the April 28 Albertan. The timely piece addresses Covid-19 and its susceptible refugees. It was so Frank -- well-researched and thought out, referencing a speech from president John Kennedy addressing the American University on June 10, 1963 and statistics on the United Nations refugee agency.
Thank-you Frank for offering your gift of words to such a varied and vast audience. You will be missed, revered and remembered.
Murray Elliott is the publisher of The Albertan.