Frank ‘Boom’ Boomer dies at 59; used money to ‘pay it forward’
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Sometimes when Erin Boomer was paying the bills, she couldn’t figure out why the checkbook balance was low.
It turned out her husband Frank had dipped into the money to help out somebody who was behind on their mortgage or medical bills. She estimated that perhaps 20 times, he provided people with as much as $2,500 to get back on their feet.
When they tried to pay him back, he’d always turn them down, saying, “Pay it forward. Someday you’re going to meet somebody who needs help.”
“Money meant nothing to this man,” said his wife. “He could have had summer homes, fancy cars, but it didn’t matter to him. He was awesome.”
Mr. Boomer, of Bensenville, died Tuesday at Elmhurst Hospital of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 59.
He knew he never wanted to go to college, so he took printing classes at Amundsen High School and used his skills to buy Duo Graphic Service about 35 years ago in Elk Grove Village. He also became a Mr. Fix-It for friends and family.
“If anyone needed a car jumped, you called Frank,” said his sister-in-law Sheila Clancy. “If your heating or air conditioning went out, you called Frank.”
“He’d always call and say, ‘John, I’ve got a spare ticket to a Cubs game,’ or a Blackhawks game,” said his brother-in-law John Rogers.
His company clients included Gatorade, McDonald’s and Pepsi, and hospitals, colleges and vitamin firms. Duo did printing, die cutting, labels and finishing work on paper products like coupons, pocket folders and boxes.
One year, Duo landed the job of assembling Ozzy Osbourne’s Christmas ornaments, relatives said. They had been manufactured elsewhere in five separate pieces. “We’d box them and get them ready,’’ his wife said. Then Duo mailed them to people on Osbourne’s Christmas list, including Elton John and Princess Diana, Erin Boomer said.
He showed smaller clients and charities the same attention as big clients, she said. “Frank never forgot his mom-and-pops.”
He didn’t use many printed contracts. “He was a handshake guy,” his brother-in-law said.
“Boom” grew up near Swedish Covenant Hospital on the North Side. His mother, Ethel, worked as a bookkeeper at the old Grassfield’s restaurant at 6666 N. Ridge. He and his dad, Frank, a bookbinder, enjoyed tuning in to “Bonanza.” As his health failed, “He found great comfort in those old shows,” his wife said. “It was like he was watching it with his dad.”
Mr. Boomer liked all the TV Westerns of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s — “Bat Masterson,” “Big Valley,” “Branded,” “Gunsmoke,” “The High Chapparal,” “Maverick,” “Rawhide” and “The Rifleman.”
“I have 180 channels of cable, and all he ever watched was reruns,” Erin Boomer said.
“The only other thing he discovered late in life was Rachel Maddow,” she said. Born into a Republican family, he gradually shifted to voting Democratic and enjoyed the liberal TV journalist’s show on MSNBC. At 8 o’clock at night, his wife said, “He’d say, ‘OK, time to watch my girlfriend Rachel.’ Even when he was dying, ‘Where’s my girlfriend?’ ”
Both divorced, they met about 25 years ago at an over-35 “mixer” in Rolling Meadows. Surrounded by suburbanites, they bonded over shared city childhoods, gabbing away about memories of taking the bus to Wrigley Field.
When the Cubs won the World Series, “You could see tears in his eyes,” she said.
He liked Italian beef sandwiches and beers on Friday nights with clients who dropped in at the office.
Mr. Boomer loved his rescue dog Gizmo, a 9-pound Shih Tzu-poodle mix who used to cuddle with him after chemo. Gizmo has been looking for him, his wife said, so “I gave him Frank’s shirt with Frank’s scent on it. He sleeps on it. He walks around with it.”
He is also survived by his brother Jim; daughter Mary Boomer; stepson Sean Rogers, and five grandchildren. A service is planned later this spring.