Reflections from Mar-Lu-Ridge Camp Counselors who worked with Ben

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Horne

I was a camp counselor at Mar-Lu-Ridge with Ben in 1998.  I was only at Mar-Lu-Ridge for one summer, but those three months were some of the best I have had to date and I am grateful for my friendship with Ben during that time.  While Ben and I did not stay in touch over the years, he reconnected with me a little less than a year ago when I announced my decision to serve in the Peace Corps in Armenia.  I was overwhelmed by the love and support I received during that time, but for some reason, Ben’s were some of the most touching words of encouragement I received, he even mentioned coming for a visit.  There was just something about him that made you feel good about what you were doing and I am happy that he re-kindled our friendship and came back into my life even if it was just for a moment.  I continue to think of Ben often over here, the inspiration he was for so many, his support for people’s passions, his true love of really living his life – those who knew him, no matter how long or how well, were very lucky and I am glad I can count myself among them.  When I see a beautiful sunset over here, Ben often comes to mind.  Please know how truly sorry I am and also know that there are many of us who will carry Ben with us in one way or another through the rest of lives.

Mr. and Mrs. Horne and family,

I cannot tell you how deeply saddened I am to learn of Ben's passing. I am so sorry for your loss. My memories are from so long ago it seems - Mr. Ben at Mar-Lu-Ridge.  He was a very special person then, and reading the stories his friends and your family have shared from recent years tells me he stayed that way through his life.

You raised a wonderful son. I remember how caring he was, how excited about the weeks that Eric and Math would be joining us at camp, how intelligent and curious and committed to gaining more knowledge and deepening his faith he was.  He would have been a wonderful professor, he was always patient and supportive of our campers (and us as fellow counselors) as they/we struggled up a hill or were trying to explain a bible story.

It must have been the summer of 97 or 98 when I last spent time with Ben (who I always looked forward to seeing at camp, especially since we had the same birthday- and was it the same hospital- Washington county general?). He has the best, brightest smile and an amazing laugh.  I remember saying good-bye at the end of summer, I knew I would miss him greatly, and though it's been years since we were in touch and we were just teenagers, I feel that way again now.

Dear Horne family,

Please accept my deepest condolences for the loss of Ben, such a bright light in the world. I worked with Ben at Mar Lu Ridge many moons ago in 1999. My sister and he were close. I was a volunteer counselor for a few weeks that summer, along with Eric, and was feeling quiet young and inexperienced amongst the group. Ben wrote the following to me during an orientation training activity: "You have an inspirational knowledge of verses, you make good comments. 1 Timothy 4:12."  During that time I felt intimidated by Ben because I found him so charismatic, handsome and spiritual, but he was nothing but kind, accepting and caring towards me. I will never forget that. 

Ben was a kindred spirit from the first time that we met.  I couldn't tell you what my favorite memory of Ben is. Sitting on the chapel rocks having philosophical discussions with him and Katie Jaron, searching for the lost three ponds at MLR with Erin Ness and him based on the stories he heard from you and your old counseling friends (we found the ponds by the way), our weekend trip to Deep Creek when Ben refused to go out to dinner with us because we had raided the kitchen at camp and set out to not spend any money and he was sticking to it.  The best part about Ben and what I will never forget about him is how he always stood up for what was right and fair and he was always there for his friends.

I was very honored and glad to know Ben as a wonderful young man in the years he served as a Counselor at Mar Lu Ridge. Along I know with so many many others I am so sorry and saddened by this tragedy. God's comfort and consolation be with the Hornes and near to us all.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Horne,

It has been many years since I've seen/spoken to you, but I wanted to reach out and share with you how much Ben's friendship meant to me over the years.  I am just so sad at the news of his death (though know he is in heaven and there is peace in this.)  Through sharing memories I hope to be able to help celebrate Ben's life. 

I remember meeting Ben for the first time, at some party during our freshman year of high school - when I spied a guy wearing a Mar-Lu-Ridge t-shirt from across the room -- not a common sight...and I decided I had to get to know the guy that 1) had some connection to the relatively obscure camp I attended that no one else in No. Va seemed to have heard of, and 2) chose a MLR t-shirt to wear to a high school party where others seemed mostly dressed to impress. :)

Though friends in high school, I got to know Ben much better while working at camp, right after we graduated from TJ.  There are so many memories of those summers that I will forever carry with me and the vast majority of them involve Ben.  So many of them are tiny memories, small moments but images I'll never forget: the way Ben would sing along so loudly with all the camp songs even with his self-identified inability to sing on key :) -- just showed his desire to put 100% of his heart and soul into everything he did and attempted; how Ben loved leading the night hikes with campers most of all; how joyful and goofy he looked when he danced; how his laugh was loud and contagious.  I remember him making up a cheer when we were co-counselors for MLR's first ever science camp - he marched around the mountain that week cheering loudly about Bill Nye, electrons and pi -- he turned science camp into something cool for a group of 10 year olds.  I remember road trips to the beach on weekends with Ben and other counselors, while blasting REM and Pearl Jam music; spending random days in Frederick, Maryland walking around thrift stores with Ben, camping at Deep Creek Lake, and other weekend adventures during the 24 hours we had off between groups of campers.  Mostly what I remember about Ben from camp, though, were the conversations during our breaks or on the weekends, when we'd often hike around camp, up to the power-lines, etc, and talked about everything and anything.  He was a great friend to me.

The first summer I worked at MLR, Ben's model of what it looked like to live your faith was remarkable to me.  I was still figuring out exactly what I believed and what faith meant in my life.  Seeing Ben's personal connection to his faith (even though we were quite young - 18/19 yrs old) transformed what I thought about what it meant to live your life in alignment with what you believe.   At this point in my life (transitioning high school/college/early college), Ben was my very best friend.  Though we grew apart and weren't in frequent contact after his move to San Diego, his friendship greatly impacted my life during those years.  

I have always admired so many things about him: his rugged individualism, his care for people and relationships, his sharp intelligence and humor, his thirst for adventure, the way he appreciated simplicity and didn't so much appreciate material things, his willingness to be honest and vulnerable about his challenges and struggles, too.  Another thing about Ben that I admired was his ability to connect with anyone - all groups of people, from all walks of life and backgrounds, felt comfortable with Ben and wanted to be his friend.  Above all, what I have always admired about Ben is the way he loved God and loved his family.  It was impossible to be Ben's friend and not also get to know his family as he values and loves you all so much. He is truly special.  I'm heartbroken that I won't see him again on this earth.