FAIRFAX, Va. -- Fran Durbin, 56, Travel Weekly's long-time Washington bureau chief, died here over the weekend after a long illness.

Durbin came to Travel Weekly in 1972 as the assistant bureau chief and moved moved up to chief in 1976.

In her years with Travel Weekly, she covered just about any industry news that emanates from the nation's capital. At various times, her beats included the Congress; the Air Traffic Conference and its successor, ARC, and trade groups, including ASTA and the Society of Government Travel Professionals, among others.

She covered travel litigation and industry scams. She broke crime stories, too, when they pertained to ticket theft or other fraud of vital interest to the travel trade.

Durbin was highly regarded in the industry and the recipient of a number of honors. They included a certificate of honor from the Commerce Department praising her "20 years of excellence in journalism."

Most recently, she was awarded ASTA's 2000 Travel Writer of the Year Award, a prize designed to recognize journalists whose efforts have contributed to the promotion of the travel agency community.

The award, which she accepted at the ASTA congress a month ago, effectively highlighted her career as a reporter known to readers as someone who could be both their ally and a hard-nosed, uncompromising journalist.

Joe Galloway, outgoing ASTA president, said in Las Vegas that she had done "an exceptional job informing the public about the important issues. Throughout it, she consistently promoted travel agents and served as an industry advocate."

The assistant bureau chief in Washington, Mike Milligan, rounded out her colleagues' testimonials, saying "you don't realize how a single life can affect so many others."

Durbin, who graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 1965, had worked and trained as a reporter and copy editor at the Columbia Missourian, a daily newspaper on the campus in Columbia.

In the two years just prior to joining Travel Weekly, she worked in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

During her years in this industry, Durbin was a member of ASTA's Central Atlantic chapter, the Pacific Asia Travel Association Washington chapter, the Washington Skal Club and Prost chapter.

She also had been active in the Society of American Travel Writers and on the advisory council to George Washington University's travel and tourism school.

She is survived by her husband, Ted Stark; a daughter, Elise Durbin Schoer; her mother, Edna Louise Flapan; three stepchildren, Tim, Amy and Elizabeth Stark, and a granddaughter, Victoria Anne Stark.

A memorial service is set for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Fairfax Presbyterian Church at 10723 Main St. In lieu of flowers, Durbin can be remembered with contributions to the House of Ruth (at 5 Thomas Circle, NW, Washington 20005) or the American Cancer Society.

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