He was diagnosed with the life-threatening and rare cancer just days before his 13th birthday.
Ben Watkins is a name that was once printed in the newspapers for being an alum of MasterChef Junior and being in the top 18 in Season 6 of the cooking competition. Now, it has found its place once again in the papers, for a completely different reason. The teen who charmed the world with his culinary skills and charming personality as an 11-year-old is no more.
The 14-year-old passed away on Monday, November 16, after battling a rare form of cancer for one and a half years. What's more tragic is that Ben lost his parents three years ago in a tragic domestic violence incident just after he finished filming MasterChef Junior, reported Chicago Tribune.
In 2017, Ben's father, Michael Watkins, 46, shot dead his wife Leila Edwards, 43, before taking his own life. The investigating officers had ruled it a murder-suicide. After the horrific incident, Edwards' mother Donna Edwards, and her younger brother, Anthony Edwards, became the then-11-year-old's guardians.
Even though the young boy had suffered an immense loss, he remained a fun-loving, outgoing, and upbeat boy. His uncle revealed that once when he was driving the young boy back from school Ben said that he wasn't the first one to lose his parents to domestic violence, many children do. Even at such a young age, he believed that he was "one of the lucky ones because I’ve got a grandma and an uncle who love me."
His uncle Anthony and grandma Donna, in a statement shared on the GoFundMe page, said that Ben had gone "home to be with his mother." They further said, "After losing both his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben's strength, courage, and love for life. He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know."
The 14-year-old fan favorite was diagnosed with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma just days before his 13th birthday in 2019. This form of cancer is an extremely rare soft tissue tumor that is found only in a small number of children and young adults.
Shedding light on Ben's battle, his family explained on the page, "When Ben's rare illness was shared with the world, he was so heartened by the outpouring of love he received from every corner of the globe — especially here in his hometown of Gary, Indiana. We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you've done."
They concluded by penning, "Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many."
Anthony disclosed that the masterchef was being treated at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago as his tumor had grown into a grapefruit-sized mass that had spread to his lung, spine, and shoulder.
He had been undergoing chemotherapy but Ben felt like he was being "tortured" because of the pain that came with the complicated treatment. However, that didn't change the young chef. Anthony said, "Despite all the pain and sickness Ben went through, he never complained, not once."
Ben's family had hoped for him to get better as Anthony revealed, "We were praying for a different outcome." However, after some time it became clear that his road to recovery was not easy. His uncle added, "But Ben’s lungs could no longer give him the air he needed to breathe. It’s been devastating."
As per Chicago Tribune, Ben is a "superhero" for his family who never stopped caring about his loved ones even while he suffered. The outlet reported that Ben asked the nurses treating him to make sure his uncle was hydrated at all times. He even asked the doctor who was writing a paper on his condition to do whatever he can because Ben didn't want "another kid to have to go through what I’m going through.”
Recalling his nephew, Anthony said, "Ben was just… so selfless. It was unreal, the character he has… he had." He continued, "Ben’s life was grandiose in a way. Every corner that he turned had transformed into a statement. It’s comforting to know he doesn’t have to experience such pain and suffering anymore." He added that the 14-year-old "would have been such a great role model" for his baby cousin, for whom he was ready to become the Marvel superhero Black Panther and protect him.
Gordon Ramsey took to his Instagram to post a tribute to the young chef and wrote, "We lost a Master of the @masterchefjunior kitchen today. Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man. Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. I adored our time cooking and laughing together on set."
He concluded by writing, "Heartbroken today losing my little mate, sending all my love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss Gx"