September 06, 2023

In Memory of Robert Franks

The Democrats Abroad Salzburg group wishes to honor the memory of Robert Charles Franks, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 70. Below are reflections from myself and other members on the aspects of his life that we will remember.

These photos capture his love of facing physical challenges through outdoor hiking. He could do this at his winter home in Arizona and summer home in Salzburg. However, his absence from our monthly meetings was felt. Robert recognized when democracy works and doesn’t and he would speak up with his concerns and hopes for America. 

He was dedicated to defending the traditional American ideals by working as hard as he could to educate eligible voters abroad and in the States, encouraging them to think more critically about what they hear etc. and to vote for democracy. For those who spread false information on social media, he knew he was not going to change the original poster’s mind, but maybe there was someone reading that feed who would see Robert’s comment and think, “There’s someone who has the same opinion I do. I’m not the only one who thinks like this.” 

Also, phone banking became one of his passions within Democrats Abroad after 2016. He posted videos like these on social media because he wanted everyone to find their own way to support democracy. (Facebook video OR Instagram video) He felt that we should never claim to be too old to learn and try something new. Learning how to phone-bank and his avid use of Duolingo were examples of how he lived this out.

Robert shared and discussed honestly and respectfully with family and friends who held different political views. It was important to him that he keep the lines of communication open. His words were backed by his generosity of time and finances. In 2022, he was one of the top 50 phone banking callers in the world. Robert shared with us openly, yet humbly, about candidates or causes (like the National Popular Vote) in which he believed and supported monetarily. 

He was a man of kindness, insight, and strong character. He worked his way from a dishwasher in Ohio to a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. Later he became a technical translator and manager within a German company’s translation office . He would have wanted to work past the legal retirement age. Thankfully – for us – his retirement at 65 meant he would move to Salzburg in 2018 and get connected to D.A. Austria and our Salzburg group. 

His final resting place is at Naturfriedhof Kastanienwiese at the foot of the Untersberg. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy of service, education, adventure, and democracy will live on.

— Mary Beth Kollert