Reflections from Peace Corps colleagues
 

Dear Horne family - 


It was with great sadness that I read the news about Ben today in the newspaper and through Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on Facebook. I am the former Peace Corps Program and Training Officer and worked with Ben during his time in Kyrgyzstan.


Ben was a remarkable young man.  Whether teaching his students, working with Afghan refugees, rapping in English, Kyrgyz, and Russian, or planning his next trekking adventure, he was a joy to work with - always cheerful and full of enthusiasm.  I have enjoyed keeping up with his life's journey over the years since he completed his Peace Corps service. Many lives were touched.


May you find comfort in the days ahead knowing that Ben died doing what he loved.   I believe we all have a powerful guardian angel watching over us now.


May the peace of God be with you - 


Susan Brock


******


Hello, 


My name is Tameron, and I was in the Peace Corps with Ben.  Ben and I spent so much time in Kyrgyzstan together, that I feel like I've heard so much about all of you.  I really tried to be there with you today to celebrate Ben's life and share with you my fond memories of Ben.  I live in Houston, TX now and have three small kids, and just couldn't pull together the child care in time to make the trip - but know that today my thoughts and prayers are with you all.  Ben was an amazing person and I feel blessed to have known him.  I miss him more then I thought I would and he hasn't left my mind all week.  I am flooded with memories and I wrote a small letter that was included in the PC Kyrgyzstan K-10 tribute book delivered to the wake yesterday by our friend Lindsey, I have also included a copy below.   

 

I will carry with me only good memories of Ben and hope that one day I will be able to see him again on the other side.  My love and prayers to you.    

 

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Horne,

I'm so sorry for your loss.  I can't begin to imagine what you and your family must be feeling at this time.  I've been thinking about you a lot since hearing the news of Ben's passing and wished dearly that I could have joined you in person to offer my condolences. Ive been flooded with memories of Ben all week and cant believe he's gone. In lieu of joining you in person, I thought I would share a couple memories with you about Ben.

 

I met Ben in Kyrgyzstan during my tenure in peace corps. I'll never forget the first time I met Ben during staging in Philadelphia, that is one thing I can absolutely say about Ben- he was the type of person that left an impression on you right from the start. In my case, I remember thinking that, even on day one, he was so opinionated and outspoken that I was either going to be totally annoyed by this guy - or really click with him... Lucky for me, I really clicked with him.

 

During our first three months in peace corps, I saw Ben daily and because of this crazy experience we shared together, we became close friends very quickly.  I always appreciated Ben's honesty, openness and acceptance of others even if they didn't agree with him or believe what he believed.  In those early days of peace corps, there were so many things that were unfamiliar and so many new emotions. Through all of it, Ben was a constant.  He was a good friend an amazing listener and a truly open and genuine person.

 

I have so many memories during that time that include Ben.  We went hiking in one of the most beautiful spots I've ever been to, we had day trips with my host family, he took me on my first trip to a catholic church, we shared hours and hours of long conversations about everything you could imagine -  had political debates, religious debates, talked about family, friends, relationships, you name it!  Ben really was a special person to me during that time.  For some reason, one memory in particular keeps coming back to me. I'm not really sure why, but I thought I would share it with you, as silly and small as it may sound.

 

I must have been with my host family only a few weeks when I was suddenly overwhelmed with a mouse problem.  They had found my stash of food and no matter what I tried, I couldn't get rid of those damn mice!  I remember one day telling Ben how crazy it was making me - I swore I could hear them clawing in the night and would wake up seeing them. I was never sure if it was real or I was just imagining it.  I had told Ben about this, more to vent then anything else, I remember feeling so tired and worn out at trying to adjust and this was just one more thing to add to the list.  Ben listened, as he always did, and instead of cracking jokes, like my other site mates would have, or telling me I was actually imagining it, he right away came over to my house for a massive mouse proof makeover.  He spent hours scouring my room, inside, outside, moving furniture, you name it, looking for every possible way a mouse could get in. He then creatively filled every hole, filled every crack and made sure all of my supplies were properly stored.  After this was finished he sat with me and reassured me that this small, irrational fear I had created was anything but. He validated my feelings and shared a story of hiking and camping in the Appalachian mountains, where he was one night over run with mice. He told me they were all over the outside of his tent and he was so scared he didn't sleep all night. A typical Ben moment of not only making me feel better, but relating to me.

 

After he finished "mouse proofing" we had another one of our marathon conversations, but for some reason, I vividly remember this particular one.  I remember him talking about his family a lot.  he talked about you both and his siblings and how much he really loved you guys.  we looked at photos of his family and mine, we compared upbringings and shared fun memories.  He talked about life, growing up, about old girlfriends and good friends, high school, college, and he talked about his religion and beliefs.  It was a good night and I learned a lot about Ben and who he was. That night, I slept like a baby, the whole night through and felt awesome in the morning. (I also didn't have another mouse in my room again! :)

 

This week, I've thought about that day a lot.  Ben didn't worry about showing his weaknesses. He felt by facing them he became stronger. He didn't judge me for my weaknesses, but wanted to help me push past them to be a stronger person.  He wanted to comfort me and make me feel better. He didn't judge or make fun of me. That day I learned to trust Ben, and that has never been an easy thing for me.  Ben was a good person and a great friend to me when I really needed one.

 

It's been years since I've seen Ben. I'm married now, with three kids and a world away from the peace corps days.  I've stayed in touch with Ben through email and Facebook and always enjoyed living vicariously through him.  I used to laugh at Ben's "haggard" pictures and witty opinions of Facebook, and I've always been in awe of his many accomplishments.  I was surprised at how much Ben's passing effected me.  I guess I thought, like most friends that you lose regular contact with, that one day our paths would cross again.  I wish I could have seen Ben one more time to thank him for being such a good friend to me and to tell him what he meant to me. I guess the next best thing is to tell you. I will carry with me good memories of Ben. I will remember him as an honest, positive, adventurous, free soul with deep spirituality, deep love for his family and friends and a huge heart.

 

I wish I could be with you to remember Ben in person, but I hope this letter affirms that Ben has touched people far and wide and his memory will live on.

 

My deepest condolences,

Tameron Ackley-Kazdal


******



A Tribute to Ben Horne from Your K-10 Group Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan
























Dear Mr. and Mrs. Horne,

We were both Peace Corps volunteers with Ben and would like to offer our deepest condolences for your loss. Ben was such a unique, strong and wonderful person who will be missed by all of his fellow volunteers.

Over the years since we all left Kyrgyzstan, we have followed Ben’s accomplishments in mountaineering, rock climbing and running through Facebook, his blog, and climbing media and we have been so amazed at all that he achieved in his 32 years. He was truly an amazing person! Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all of your family.

Sincerely,

Stacey and Thomas Blackford


I met Ben in 2002 in Peace Corps training. I loved discussing Kyrgyz national politics and all sorts of other social issues with him. He was one of the most driven, intelligent, and convicted people I have ever met, not to mention a devil’s advocate and a great debater!

One of his adventures in Kyrgyzstan stands out to me. Toward the end of our service, Ben and a friend of his stopped by our apartment to stay for a few days before heading out on a trip.
Of course, since Ben is a total adventurer, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear that they were en route to visit Afghanistan... but it was a bit of a shock to learn that they were driving there, over mountainous, crazy roads, through all sorts of extreme back country. When they got back, I remember Ben saying that he had interacted with little kids who had come up and touched his head because they had never seen blonde hair before. He was the first Westerner some had ever seen.

Victoria Solomon


I was saddened by the news of Ben’s passing. It was such a pleasure meeting him in the Peace Corps ten years ago. I’m happy to learn that he continued to lead a full, adventurous, and meaningful life. What a great guy. My sincere condolences.

Anabay Sullivan



These are a pics from when I last saw Ben, in 2007. He was taking the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to either Mongolia or Beijing (I can't remember), and I was living in Yekaterinburg, Russia, at the time, so he stopped over for a few days. In the pictures, you'll see him at the marker of the "border" between European and Asian Russia, on a hike nearby, and posing for a ridiculous picture that speaks for itself.     



Jeff Hulse



Ben’s quirky personality and his passion to live life on his terms stood out.

My first memory of Ben was during out orientation, while our group was still in the states. Everyone went around the circle of chairs in which we were sitting, introducing themselves, trying to make a good impression. The only introduction I remember was Ben’s, though. Several other guys named Ben went before him, and at his turn, he said, “Hi, my name is Tiger Woods”. Everyone was a bit taken aback, I think, but really it was funny and it did make an impression! After that, I ran into Ben from time to time as we moved about Kyrgyzstan, chatting in the office, or having dinner at a friend’s apartment.

I remember his love of mountain climbing, his “peak a week” goal, and his symbolic burning of dollar bills. I was impressed that in the already difficult situation of living in Kyrgyz-
stan, he was devoted to taking advantage of the landscape around him, and made sure that he found a way to express his beliefs while doing so! I loved hearing about his class at the American University of Central Asia (then of Kyrgyzstan, I believe).

I heard from several students that he was a favorite professor, that he brought his passion and enthusiasm to the classroom. I think the last time I heard about Ben during that time

period was when he took off for Afghanistan. Honestly, I thought he was a bit nuts, but now, after I am building my own career conducting research in Afghanistan, and after multiple extended trips during which I live with the local
population, much like Peace Corps, I wish I would have had the guts to go back then and see what it was like at that point in time!

I was so happy to reconnect with Ben through Face-
book and see the amazing things he was doing. I felt
close to him as he too, like me, was a PhD student, and I know it takes a certain type of person to commit to this lifestyle long term. Although I haven’t seen him, or even really talked to him, for years, this loss has saddened me greatly. I feel the world has lost someone great, someone who touched so many people during his time on the earth. For Ben’s close friends and family, I cannot imagine what this loss feels like, and I send my deepest sympathies.

Melissa Skye Kerr Chiovenda


It was a great pleasure and honor to know Ben. I always admired his fun loving spirit, and how he poured 100% of himself into every moment of his life. I remember during our Peace Corps close of service celebration in
2004, Ben had heard of my Kyrgyz classroom music singing routines and asked if I would perform with him in a rap duet that evening, as part of our K-10 dinner entertainment. I had seen Ben perform before and knew I was not his equal, so I offered to open for him instead. After my mild warm-up act, I then had the pleasure of introducing Ben’s legendary alter ego, Zoom Loco. I remember him giving a great performance, and I always enjoyed how much he got into his hip hop persona.

Since our service ended, we had some communications over
Facebook but I somehow took it for granted we would one day cross paths again. Losing Ben in this sudden way has reminded me how fragile life can be, but his example will continue to inspire us to strive to our full potential.

Michael Olsen


Ben was in my language group. He really worked at learning Russian (I knew
I was old in that language group...your brain does clog up at 65)...I really admired his energy and ability to learn. And he had hiked the Appalachian trail so we all knew he was out there in the mountains whenever he could be. He is a loss and he was doing what he loved...

Susan Sullivan


It was an honor and a privilege to compile these tributes for Ben. He was one special guy and I am so glad that we knew each other in the Peace Corps and even after while we both lived
in DC. I loved running into him on the streets as I’d be walking to work, and he’d be running. What an adventurous soul - no matter what he was doing in life - it was an adventure. My prayers extend to your entire family and network of friends.

Lindsey Heyl Smith


The following asked to be included, as they send heartfelt condolences to your whole family:

Brian Columbo, Mikko Erpsted, Nate Green, Erika Hunsicker, Tim Johnson, Loren Kupferschmid, ,Johanna Patrick, Liz Steppe, Jamie Welch, Sarah Wiens