Goodbye to a Wonderful Friend and Travel Companion

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we’ve been friends with a couple that we have enjoyed traveling with for many years. They’ve been great companions, adventurous and open-minded and fun to be around. Sadly we lost one member of that couple, our dear friend Elton, to ALS last week.

In memory of Elton I wanted to write about the the many trips we’d taken together.

It all started when we were talking about cruises. My husband Dennis and I had not yet been on a gay cruise, while our friends Elton and Steve had only been on gay cruises. We agreed that we would each give the other a try. To convince Steve and Elton that traveling with straight people wasn’t that bad we booked a Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans for our first trip. We had a grand time in the Crescent City filling ourselves with beignets and seafood, and Elton enjoyed himself taking thousands of photos at the St. Louis cemetery. The cruise docked in Playa del Carmen, Belize, Roatan, and Cozumel. We lazed on the beaches and snorkeled in the waters, and the fish we spotted off Cozumel were particularly lovely. Elton had a great time on the island of Roatan making friends with the monkeys and macaws.

Elton making friends in Roatan

To fulfill our end of the bargain, we booked a gay cruise for our next trip. The reason Dennis and I hadn’t gone on a gay cruise before is frankly because we had the impression they’d be huge party boats filled with the young circuit party crowd. That just isn’t our travel style. Our friends assured us that wasn’t the case, that while there were plenty of partiers on board there were also plenty of old guys like us that actually wanted to see the destinations we visited. So we took a round trip cruise from Barcelona, scheduled to stop in Valencia, Ibiza and Casablanca. We chose this cruise largely because we wanted to see Morocco. Unfortunately, there were demonstrations in Casablanca against allowing a gay cruise to dock, so that port was scrapped from the itinerary while we were en route. We still had a wonderful time visiting Spain. It was our first time there and we fell in love with both Barcelona and the rest the country.

Since we enjoyed the Spain cruise so much our next trip together was another gay cruise, this time to Alaska. We started out in Seattle, visiting the very worthwhile Museum of Glass while we were there. The cruise went up the inside passage, stopping at several Alaskan ports before turning around. The day we spent on a scenic cruise through Prince William Sound was a highlight. We watched, heard and felt the power of glaciers as they calved into the icy waters. Hitting Victoria on the way home, we visited the lovely Buchart Gardens. We lost Elton numerous times as he wandered off to take close up photos of the various flowers. We found that the question “where is Elton?” became a common refrain on all of our vacations together.

The gang relaxing on our Alaska cruise

Wanting to leave the big ships behind for a while, we settled on taking a river cruise from Prague to Amsterdam for our next trip. We had a wonderful time seeing the Bavarian towns along the way, drinking beer in Cologne and enjoying pastries in every port. Elton was a coffee lover so every shore excursion included an afternoon stop for coffee and something sweet (a daily ritual I strongly supported!). Since he and I shared a love of photography we’d share the pictures we took along the way, with Elton always outdoing me both in the quantity and quality of pictures he took.

Next was New Zealand, which you can read about in depth in my prior post. Elton was quite trepidatious about spending so much time on the bus, and we often found ourselves having to wrangle him away from taking one last picture to make sure we were back on board in time. To his credit, even though he was usually the last on board he never made us late.

Elton was Brazilian and had often talked about wanting to visit Portugal. He let us know that he had a conference to attend in Lisbon, so we decided to fly over and join him. We booked a river cruise up the Douro, Portugal’s River of Gold. If you’d like, you can read more about that trip in my prior Portugal post. We also had a wonderful add-on to the Algarve coast, spending time in Faro and driving out to Sagres to see the End of the World. I worried as Elton got way to close to the edge of the cliffs in order to get shots of the fishermen dangling their lines in the water hundreds of feet below, but he managed to get some amazing shots.

Elton enjoying the view on our Douro river cruise

Our last trip together was January 2020, right before the pandemic shut down our travels. Elton was in the movie industry, and a director friend of his had a movie screening at the Sundance Film Festival. We flew to Park City to enjoy the snow and buzzy atmosphere; it was a wonderful time. Elton even got us into a very exclusive Netflix party where I felt like an insider sipping wine and rubbing elbows with the actors I had just watched on screen earlier that afternoon.

We will miss Elton greatly. He was a fun, caring, talented and creative man who was taken from us much too soon. ALS is a cruel disease and our friends Steve and Elton found great support through the ALS Association. If you are inclined to make a donation to the Massachusetts Chapter that would be a wonderful tribute to Elton’s memory.

8 Comments

  1. Alayne says:

    Elton sounds like he was a very kind man.

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    1. Ross says:

      He very much was.

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  2. Moira Obermeyer says:

    I’m so sorry for your and Dennis’ loss of such a good friend, and for Steve’s loss of his husband.
    Your tribute was beautiful.
    May Elton rest in Gods loving arms🙏💐

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Judi says:

    Thank you for this – I adored Elton and will miss him tremendously. He was one of those people that although we didn’t talk often, when we did it was like we hadn’t missed a day.

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    1. Ross says:

      Thanks Judi, I adored Elton as well. He was a wonderful person.

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  4. Rose says:

    This was a beautiful tribute to Elton!!! How fortunate you were to have such wonderful friends to join you and your husband on these adventures! I am sure as you continue to travel you will see things that will remind you of Elton…

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  5. Lynn Manhart says:

    Aw Ross, I’m very sad to read about this loss of your dear friend and of Steve’s husband. It has been so long since our paths have crossed and especially too long since I’ve seen Steve. Elton sounds like an incredible person and gracious friend. I’m sad that I have lost contact with you, Dennis and Steve. I would have loved to meet Elton. Please accept my condolences and let Steve know how sad I am for his pain of losing someone so special and so dear. I appreciate you keeping me in the loop of all your wonderful adventures. I feel as though I can almost vicariously experience these places with you. You are always in my thoughts and in my heart. My love and best wishes to all of you. Sincerely, Lynn Manhart.

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    1. Ross says:

      It so great to hear from you, Lynn, thanks for the kind words! I’m sad we’ve lost touch as well, we should correct that! Love and best wishes to you and Mark!

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