I would say that Ben Helm, who died on Thursday, April 11, is mourned by all, but I can't exactly agree with the word "mourn." Of course we miss him terribly; the thought of never seeing Ben again has woken me in the middle of the night. I asked some of his friends to speak with me about what Ben means to us. I'm sure the loss weighs heavy on everyone who knew him, but when we gathered this Saturday to talk about Ben there weren't any tears shed ... unless you count tears of laughter. Ben is best remembered in laughter.
Some people just seem to have the universe pinched around them, and Ben's pinch of universe was hilarious.
His sisters say Ben's penchant for comical mishaps started during his childhood in Massachusetts. There was the afternoon he went to walk the dog and came back in screaming about the vulture on their roof ... which turned out to be a pheasant. Or the time he threw a secret party just before he left to join the military. His family retuned to find his friends had smashed every lightbulb in the house. Ben, being ever responsible, taped down all of the light switches as a safety precaution.
A while after returning to civilian life, Ben moved to Arizona with his best friend. Arizona became his new home, but he always left a piece of his heart in Massachusetts. As proof of this, friends cite the time he dumped a woman over the Red Sox.
This was in 2004, immediately after the Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, breaking the fabled Curse of the Bambino. She said it wasn't a big deal and didn't want Ben to go out with friends. He disagreed. It was a very emotional time for every Red Sox fan, and staying home was out of the question. Ben often led the pack when it came to celebrating and goaded friends into having a good time.
As the evening of remembrance waxed on, so did the anecdotes: Ben busting his belt and grappling with his pants during disc golf, navigating load-bearing drink coasters at Boulders on Broadway, and the lasting image of Ben riding his cruiser down the street wearing a big goofy smile.
While we sat there relaying shared experiences, no matter how many people we called for more stories, there was a common thread: Everyone loved Ben's laughter and warmth.
Everyone remembers Ben as a guy who'd be there for you no matter the time of day. He may have been a staple at Boulders on Broadway, but he was so much more than that. He was a caring member of the community, beloved by friends and now missed by all. He was the sort of person with which you felt instantly comfortable. He was always kind, he was always laughing. His laughter will echo through the lives of everyone who knew him.
Ben Helm's life is celebrated by his family and seemingly innumerable friends. If you wish to join them in remembrance, meet at Boulders on Broadway at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16.
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