Creative, energetic, funny, loving, shooting star
With his blondish mop of hair, engaging dimpled smile, infectious enthusiasm and zeal for life, Ben epitomized the boy next door. He was caring, affectionate, sincere and sensitive to others. He was spontaneous, creative and charismatic; with an ability to connect to anyone, always making them laugh. “Ben had a tremendous impact on many people, was a great friend, and always tried to brighten their day,” Ben’s brother, Alex shared.
Growing up, Ben played basketball, baseball and other sports, but was most successful at soccer. “Some of my fondest memories were coaching Ben’s sports teams, watching him play and going to sporting events together,” Ben’s dad said. He recalls their time together watching the Eagles win the NFC championship and the Phillies win the National League championship and enjoying cheesesteaks at Pat’s in Philly after many games over ten years.
As he grew older, Ben developed a strong interest in music. He was a creative, primarily self-taught musician; he could listen to a song and quickly replicate it on his guitar. He wrote his own music, played synthesizer, and keyboard and mixed songs on his computer. Ben joined the band I am King and produced music for them and other musicians and groups. Ben wanted to go to college to study music production and start a career in the music industry, but his illness thwarted his efforts. In rehab stays, Ben used his music to bring people together, playing the guitar while others sang along.
Ben was exceptionally generous with his time and resources and was a constant source of support and leadership to others.His enthusiasm drew people to him, and many said he “talked them off a cliff” or motivated them to stay sober. He left a powerful legacy with many people that continues to positively affect their recovery today.
Toward the end of his life, Ben forged a ”beautiful and authentic relationship with God,” according to his mom. He secured a good job, leased an apartment, and was getting on the path to becoming self-sufficient. “Experiencing recovery at the end of his life was monumental,” stated his brother. “I really admire the resiliency he had amidst his addiction.”
Ben’s laughter and music are deeply missed. “He is no longer here smiling, laughing, or a part of our lives,” his dad said. His mom feels the loss of singing and dancing around with Ben, his hugs and their daily text conversations. His brother experiences a deep void from the loss of Ben, his only sibling, with no one left to share childhood experiences and memories with. He always thought they would grow into adulthood and start their families together.
Ben’s family experienced what many in their situation have; abandonment by family and long-time friends. They were stigmatized and ostracized, both during Ben’s illness and after his death. They founded a non-profit, Speak up for Ben, and the OASIS Community Center, devoted exclusively to supporting families impacted by a loved one’s substance use. “We don’t want others to go through this alone,” Ben’s mother said. It gives her purpose and a glimmer of hope that she can experience some measure of healing. Ben’s dad said, “I have found that helping others softens the grief and helps me heal. Still, there is a hole in my heart that I will always have until the day I die.”
Ben’s mother, Rhonda, father, Jerry, and brother, Alex, provided the information for this narrative.
August 8, 1992-August 1, 2016
Age 23-Lived with the disease of addiction 8 years