One of a kind: Graeb touched hearts, lives of many
The Brighton Blade
Monday, February 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm
By Kevin Denke
Audrey Wagner can’t remember exactly when she first met Ben Graeb. Her best guess is it was during first-grade Little League baseball.
But over time, Graeb’s voracious appetite for life, that mischievous smile punctuated so perfectly by that untamed mop of sandy blonde hair and his infectiously charismatic personality found a permanent spot in her heart, just like it did for so many others.
So much so that now Wagner, like so many of Graeb’s friends, can’t quite picture life without him.
Benjamin Joseph Graeb, 21, of Brighton, died Feb. 2, 2010, at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver. He leaves behind his parents, Judy and Beef, of Brighton; brothers, Zeb and Gus; grandmothers, Ruby Graeb and Patricia Erger, and numerous uncles, aunts and cousins.
In just a little more than two decades of life, Ben packed in enough memories that could take others triple the time – if not a whole extra lifetime – to match. But they weren’t his memories alone. As word spread about his death last week, a steady stream of visitors added their memories and pictures to a Facebook memorial page – created by Wagner – in his honor.
Their stories and tributes were sandwiched around pictures, such as a goateed Ben donning an orange clown nose or toasting another successful game of beer pong with friends.
Wagner remembers a double date with Graeb and his girlfriend to a miniature golf course.
“Ben just kept hitting the ball as hard as he could, like he was playing real golf, “ Wagner said. “Then, when we got close to the hole, he would get on his knees and use the putter like it was a pool stick.”
Classic Ben Graeb.
“Ben was always smiling, always making people laugh and always happy,” she added.
Friend Brandon Preece remembered how Graeb, a standout for the Brighton High School football team, ended up with No. 83.
“I was 83 for a long time in football and one day the coaches said that they needed my jersey ‘cause one of the starters wanted that number,” Preece said. “I didn’t know who it was. But the next day at our game, Ben came out with 83 on, and I remember always giving him such a hard time and he would come up with silly excuses.”
Many late-night parties for Ben and Preece would wind up at the Brighton Village Inn.
“After we would ever go hang out or party, me and him would go to Village Inn the morning after. And when it was time to order he would grab my hand and say, ‘Don’t worry, pumpkin, I got this,’” Preece remembered. “Then he would order for me.
“That’s just the kind of humor he had,” Preece added.
Wagner remembered her sophomore year of high school when Graeb and his lifelong friend, Austin Klosterman, would sneak out of Spanish class.
“Every single day, they would leave class and go get burritos,” she said. “They would tell the teacher, ‘el baño, el baño’ (like they were going to the bathroom) but they would come back with burritos and chocolate milk.”
When they graduated in 2007, Ben headed off to CSU in Fort Collins, and Wagner went to Metro State. Distance didn’t weaken the friendship. Wagner was training to get her pilot’s license. Each day, she would send Ben a picture of her from the plane.
“One day it would be outside the plane,” she said. “And then the next day it would be a photo from the air.”
Those were the kinds of heartwarming stories that flooded the Facebook memorial page.
Wagner knew the memorial page would be popular. But as the tally of friends topped 400, it even caught her off guard. Still, she thinks it’s misleading.
“I think that the page does not show how many lives he had touched,” she said. “I just think about all of the people who don’t have a Facebook page or may not even know about this yet.”
About 600 people attended his funeral Feb. 6 at Harvest Fellowship Church in Brighton.
“In his 21 years here, that kid made sure that everyone was laughing,” Preece added.
But Wagner said, underneath the crazy times, the smiles and all the laughs, was a caring friend with a huge heart.
“He was loved by all,” Wagner said. “He was one of the kindest, politest people I ever knew.”
Memorial contributions may be made to: Ben Graeb c/o Tabor-Rice Funeral Home, 75 S. 13th Ave., Brighton, CO 80601.