Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Olive Hill and Carter County suffered a tremendous loss recently, with the untimely death of Ben Jordan. It’s tragic when anyone passes. Doubly so when they are so young. It’s a hard topic to broach. How do you balance respect for the grieving family with the community’s desire to know more?
In our case, we decided to run the obituary submitted by the family and to run the call from the Chamber of Commerce for tributes on our sports page. Otherwise, we left it alone.
I honestly didn’t really know Ben or his sports career. Though I’ve been covering Carter County for nearly four years – since 2017 – it’s only over the past seven months that I’ve been privileged to cover local sports. Since we’ve started the Carter County Times we’ve made an effort to cover local sports as much as possible. It’s been a challenge not only because of our small staff, but because of the weird sports schedule in the year of the COVID pandemic.
However, you don’t have to be familiar with sports to see the oversized impact “Big Ben” had on the community he called home.
All you’ve had to do in the weeks following his passing is drive around Olive Hill and look at the tributes to the beloved student athlete. It’s there in the ribbons on various storefronts all over town. In the big blue #3 painted on the window of Tackett’s Furniture. On the tributes of the electronic marquees of First Baptist Church and McDonald’s.
More importantly, it’s in the stories shared by those who did know Ben.
Stories from other news outlets noted his consummate sense of good sportsmanship. How, regardless of whether his team won or lost, he was the first to congratulate the other team on a game well played. And not just the perfunctory good game. Other coaches noted that his comments and critiques were sincere and heartfelt.
On the Wednesday after the news came out, as I drove across the county delivering papers, I heard stories from person after person about the impact Ben had in their lives. Everyone talked about what a positive influence he was, on and off the field, and how he always had a positive thing to say and an ear to listen when it was needed.
Mark Orcutt, at Upper Tygart Mini Mart, said that while he was known on the ball field as “Big Ben” he called him “the gentle giant” because of his calm, kind, and easy-going demeanor.
Bob Taylor, at Pleasant Valley BP, may have said it best, though.
“They called him ‘Big Ben’,” Taylor said. “But what made him big wasn’t on the outside. It was what was on the inside.”
We can hardly think of a better tribute. Can anyone ask for more than to be remembered fondly, and as a positive influence on those who knew them?
Jeremy D Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org