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A life ‘intimately connected with creation’
Ben Horne, a former altar server at Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, dies in a climbing accident in Peru.
It was on mountain peaks, the sides of cliffs and along remote trails that Ben Horne felt closest to God. And it was on a mountain in Peru that the 32-year-old Annandale native died, along with his friend Gil Weiss, 29, of Queens, New York. Horne died doing what “brought him to greater contemplation of beauty and of God,” said his mother, Chris Horne, whose family attends Holy Spirit Church in Annandale.
Horne and Weiss died during a 1,000-foot fall as they descended Palcaraju Oeste, a 20,000-foot peak. The friends, both veteran climbers, set out on the trek July 11. The trip was not supposed to take more than seven to 10 days, and when no one had heard from them after day 13, a search party was sent out. The bodies were found July 28. CNN reported July 31 that a large, collapsing chunk of ice likely caused the fall.
“They were both good climbers,” said rescue coordinator Ted Alexander of Skyline Adventure School in Huaraz, Peru, in a July 30 Washington Post story. “It’s unfortunate they’ve done routes like that plenty of times before and for some reason this one ended up poorly.”
Horne, a graduate of Rice University in Houston and John Hopkins University in Baltimore, was working toward a doctorate in economics from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). He was hoping to be a professor and to work in conflict resolution.
Horne’s passion for nature and God and his desire to live a full life shaped him since he was a small boy, according to his mother.
The family moved to Annandale when Horne was 10, and he was an altar server at Holy Spirit. He was introduced to backpacking through Boy Scouts and would go on to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, through Death Valley and in Kyrgyzstan while in the Peace Corps. But he was not only a hiker and climber; he also loved to bicycle, rock climb, surf, snowboard and run. Horne was drawn to the thrill of pushing himself physically, but outdoor sports were also a chance for him to reflect and to be “intimately connected with creation,” said his mother.
In his climbing and travel blog, Zoom Loco, Horne wrote: “I enjoy (sports) for their own sake, and I also use them to better understand myself, humanity and the world.”
The blog is a glimpse into someone interested in topics ranging from music to food to the environment. Under the heading “Quotes that inspire me” are Bob Dylan lyrics and lines from T.S. Eliot, Victor Hugo and George Orwell.
“He was just a true seeker,” said Dominican Father John Paul Forte, director of the UCSD Newman Center. “Ben's love of ideas permeated into all aspects of his life,” added his mother. He “loved discussing ideas of philosophers, economists, scientists … as they applied in the real-world situations he had been in with his travels.”
Father Forte said Horne was a quiet leader who brought people together by building community. He organized Newman Center camping trips and engaged others in stimulating conversations. He also was a very open person who was interested in other’s ideas, he said.
“He had his faults, but it was his genuine love for others and life that drew people to him,” said his mother. Family and friends were deeply important to him, she said, recalling how one summer he spent two weeks helping his grandmother who had broken her hip.
It was Horne’s relationship with God and his faith that grounded his life, according to Father Forte. At UCSD, he was a lector at Mass and always willing to help. His faith “was deep in a quiet way,” his mother added.
The day the family got news of Horne’s death, his younger brother Eric blogged about his brother’s love of faith and family and on climbing together:
“Climbing together strengthened our brotherly love. Talking and discussing and arguing and praying with Ben cemented our Christian love for each other. I knew he’d catch me when I fell.”
Horne is survived by his mother and father, Gary; two brothers, Matthew and Eric; and one sister, Elizabeth.
A visitation will be held Aug. 6 at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home in Fairfax from 2 to 8 p.m. The funeral Mass will be offered Aug. 7 at Holy Spirit Church in Annandale at 10:30 a.m.
Memorial contributions in Ben Horne's name may be made to A Simple House (a Catholic charity aiding the poor in D.C.): P.O. Box 312519, Washington, DC 20030 or asimplehouse.org; or to Heartfelt Cardiac Projects (a charity to screen children for heart problems): 1728 Glenneyre St., No. 244, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 or heartfeltcardiacprojects.org.