(Joy of Living)

Some live for the future and some live for the past, and the very special people live for the moment. Ben? He lived for the moment. Those that knew him shared memories that echo the latter, several of which mention a large stuffed purple monkey, or gorilla some may say. Jen recalls a favorite memory of Ben, when they went to the Orange County Fair. He said the fair made him feel like he was at home, in Texas. Ben always loved playing games, the fun type, not just competitive. Burning through his lifeguarding check at the ring-toss, Jen tried to save him the misery, but he insisted. After cutting a deal with the gamekeeper, Ben with his very unique grin and 50 rings in hand was determined. Before she knew it he rung one for a grand prize! Without hesitation he made up his mind and seconds later was wielding a life sized stuffed purple monkey through the fair asking patrons how they were. When they returned the gesture his reply was simple, “I’m alright except for this monkey on my back!" Nothing made Ben happier than making people laugh.

Though the line between stuffed gorilla and monkey may be a bit blurry, memories of Ben are crystal clear. A water polo teammate, DZ, recounts an encore cameo from the purple monkey. "After a tough loss to the Redlands, coach was giving us the post game lecture. You know how it goes, “You guys sucked out there, you got killed, but you're better than that, you can do better” and all that stuff. I wasn't even listening, I just saw, in the background, a glassy-eyed, cheese smiling, free willed Ben carrying the Purple Kong. A five foot stuffed purple gorilla, on his shoulders. Ben headed right for us with coach ranting and Kong pops his head into the huddle swaying around and even head-butting coach. It reminded me, as Ben always had, that there are more important things in life. Like having no regrets, living life to the fullest, "don't be scared!”, and laughing along the way."

Ben just had a knack for making friends. Kristin writes, "Never in my life have I met anyone who lived everyday to the fullest. Ben could do anything, but mostly he could make people smile. He was the kind of person that 300 people would claim as their best friend, and this is before Facebook!" JR called Ben "the glue that brings different groups of people together to form new friendships. He was a person who didn't just touch lives, he tattooed them." Ben found it easy to make people laugh, he sort of coined his own isms, by adding the suffix "eezy" to words. Another friend, Ginger, recalls "he was delightful and had an unending source of joy within himself that spilled over to everyone around him".

So you see, the Purple Monkey represents so much more than the fabric and stitching it's made of, it represents a catalyst for joy and laughter, friendships and family, enriching the lives of the people around us.

In life there are very few people who live so fully, richly and generously. Benjamin James Garcia was definitely one of those few, full of fun and love. His life was a radiant source of joy that is now the spirit of the Beneezy Purple Monkey Fun Run.


A very special thanks to Jen, DZ, Claire, JR, Kristin, Ginger and Sue Jean