Remembering Ben Lolies
It seems to have passed nearly unnoticed around Hanover that several weeks ago Ben Lolies '09 died in a motorcycle accident ("Junior dies in motorcycle accident," Oct. 29). Perhaps it was because few students knew him. He only spent a little time on campus because of a bad case of Crohn's disease, and when he was here he was not very active in campus life. Still, I am sorry to see that Dartmouth has allowed his death to pass with such a small reaction. If we claim to be a tight-knit community, we should try to remember the ones we lose. Someone should tell a story of Ben, even if it is incomplete. My story is one of a genuinely good, gifted man who had a lot to offer. It may not be much, but it is something to remember him by.
I first met Ben as his trip leader; later I came to know him as a friend and an upperclassman he could come to for advice. Occasionally I had the pleasure of fielding questions I got the feeling he would ask of no one else. At first glimpse, Ben did not strike me particularly. He was athletic looking, a bit short, and he had the terrified/excited smile that everyone around Robo wore that day. He looked ready for anything but a little unsure of what was to come. Trip H13 soon learned that Ben loved swimming. He swam competitively at home and he would be swimming with Dartmouth's team. He was proudly from Atlanta, and he dreamed of playing in the World Series of Poker one day.
Finally, Ben told us that he was a very religious Christian. Hearing this made me nervous as the DOC had warned us to stay away from potentially divisive and confrontational topics. Nevertheless, Creationism came up. To Ben's immense credit, the conversation never turned ugly, confrontational or divisive. He easily accepted that we did not share his views and he was able to explain how he looked at the world so that I felt closer to him rather than more distant.
Trippees turned to shmobs and Ben became a popular guy. Somehow everyone around him was always having a good time and so was he. Sadly, sometime during fall term Crohn's began to take its toll on him. He had to give up swimming to try to keep up with classes.
In the winter I was off but I made a point of seeing him when I came up for Winter Carnival. Saturday night we met and talked alone for several hours. He was not sure if he could make it through the term. He was feeling so sick that he was not getting to many of his classes and he spent almost no time socializing. Not swimming was getting to him, and he wanted to know about activities he could participate in. He wanted to know about medical withdrawal. We agreed that whatever happened in the short term, once he got the Crohn's under control all would be well. He left a few weeks later. At the end of the following fall term Ben approached me in Collis. He was dazed. He told me that he was on strong painkillers for complications of Crohn's that prevented him from studying for his finals. He was leaving again, this time for a year. Worst of all he said that it was his birthday and he was alone; he had barely spoken to anyone in weeks. I never had reason to doubt anything he said, but when I learned of his death I looked at his Facebook page: Dec. 2 is not his birthday.
I took him for dessert at the Canoe Club and again we talked at length. We talked a about the preceding term and why he needed to leave again. He wanted my advice on how to spend his time away from school and what to do when he came back. We agreed that whatever happened in the short term, once he got the Crohn's under control all would be well. He left a few days later.
That was the last time I saw Ben. Over the last year we blitzed occasionally but that was all. I always looked forward to his return, though. Even if I would not be on campus to see him succeed, I was sure he would tell me all about it. I blitzed him to let him know I would be up for Homecoming this fall and I have never learned why he did not return as planned.
As I reread my story, Ben comes off as something of a pathetic figure, someone overcome by disease and then killed in a motorcycle accident. The Ben I knew was confident, smiling and ready for anything, even if he was a little unsure of what was to come. He had an enormous amount of potential: He was bright, athletically talented and created a good time for all of those around him.
I am sorry to see that Dartmouth has not had a greater reaction to its loss. I hope that as you read this, you will pause and remember a genuinely good, gifted man who had a lot to offer. It may not be much, but it is something to remember him by.