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Benjamin Angel Van De Graaff
Benjamin Angel Van De Graaff, the beloved son of Wayne and Vickie Van De Graaff, was born on September 7, 1994 in Bountiful, Utah and died at the age of 23 on February 11, 2018.
Ben, or Buzzer, as he was affectionately nicknamed, was deeply loved by his family at a depth that parallels the beauty of his life and soul. He was a child of unconquerable determination; a teen of grit and spunk; and a young adult man whose life was punctuated with excellence that was motivated by love and tempered with compassion. He is a man unique for all times, and will be missed by those who loved him and remain behind. We joyfully look forward to embracing our dear Buzzer in the bosom of Christ in the Celestial Heavens beyond.
Ben was born into a robust home with 7 older siblings who vied for time to love and hold him. He was the joy and exhaustion of his parents, who knew his Spirit before he came to earth, and loved and anticipated their Angel. His early childhood was filled with rides in the family 15-passenger van to the mountains for exploration, wiggly bouts on the bench during Sacrament meetings, and a mini Noah’s Ark of animal pets. He was always giving, and would choose his favorite toys and wrap them as Christmas presents for his siblings.
At the age of nine, Ben was dubbed the “Miracle Boy” after beating the odds and expectations of medical personnel by surviving being struck by a speeding van while walking in the crosswalk on the way home from elementary school. His rescue from the crash scene involved close to 100 people, and his post-hospital recovery involved the intimate nurturing of dedicated family and friends for years. One milestone after another was steadily checked off his unique “to-do” list – feeding himself, learning to walk again, and building enough strength in his hands to play the piano. His recovery took years and he patiently and cheerfully approached each step of progress (he was not, however, very cheerful or patient with the piano lessons through the years). Although this tragedy shaped his life, he was determined not to be defined by it, and would frequently explain his massive scars as the result of a “shark attack.” Neurological specialists reported that although he might finish high school, he would never recover to the extent that he could handle college curriculum. And yet, eight weeks after the time of his passing, Ben would have graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He will receive the degree posthumously. Our Buzzer maintained unconquerable determination. He never gave up.
During his time in Junior and High School, Ben loved soccer, lacrosse, basketball, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, cars, music, his dog Scout, and above all his family. He was musical, playing piano and trumpet; he participated in band and jammed with his siblings on the weekends. He composed a piano piece, “An Ode to Scout” (his dog) that involved a romping tune and actual vocal yelps that mimicked Scout’s barking. He and his Dad maintained a Saturday lawn-mowing business that included a round of free lawn care to the neighborhood widows. From his Dad he learned the art of rebuilding cars (and patience!), and developed a love for cars that drove him to mechanical interests of all sorts. He looked for any opportunity to bring people to the garage to explain his latest update or installation. He consistently reached out to friends, and always wanted to be surrounded by people that he could love, and that would love him.
Ben’s middle name was Angel, and although he often pretended that middle initial stood for “Angus,” he truly was an angel to many through his love and compassion and service. His passionate nature resulted in bouts of stubbornness that eventually melted into deep gestures of love and reconciliation. He learned the depth of his Mother’s love, and developed a heart of deep loyalty to his family and those who suffered. He loved his parents and would serve them constantly, doing everything in his power to please them. He became infinitely compassionate, leaving notes and money and gifts to those who needed it. He could perceive underlying needs or pains of others, and would reach out to bring relief and cheer. While working as a teller at Wells Fargo, an elderly woman came in and tried to withdraw money from her small account. When there were insufficient funds, Ben transferred money from his own account into her account so she wouldn’t suffer monetary need. Ben also brought relief through sharing joy. He was always making jokes and eliciting laughs with his dances and antics. He would make people laugh and secretly record their laughs just so he could play it back to them. He built pillow forts for his nieces and nephews, engaged in wrestling matches, and would spend hours pushing kids on swings or throwing them up and down at the pool (“flying fish!”). One Christmas he spent hours setting up an elaborate maze for a family nerf war that resulted in piles of winded nieces and nephews, and well-exercised siblings. He was the board game king, always exercising patience in explaining rules. He would entertain with his life-of-the-party antics, and pull out win after win.
After high school Ben served an LDS mission in Tampa, Florida and attended Brigham Young University-Idaho. He found that he loved learning. He studied Mechanical Engineering, and worked as a peer advisor and tutor. He completed an internship where he worked on the technical and safety aspects of nuclear launch facilities. His learning wasn’t just academic, but expanded to the concepts of physics because it applied to life. He would point out the joints on bridges and explain the distribution of forces; he explored voltage and resistance by entirely installing a car sound system by himself; he rebuilt an electric motor for his windshield. At school he spent hours that often extended long in to the night completing homework and studying. His gift of learning was then turned to others as he tutored them on concepts that he had previously struggled with. Ben would often come home for a weekend, and despite loads of homework, would stay a “little longer” and a “little longer”, until it was dark and past normal driving hours. He would courageously drive back to school through the night, and then stay up and finish his homework for class the next morning. He was committed to helping people feel included, and would often invite and spend time with friends, and then stay up through the night doing homework.
Ben’s character blossomed during his college years. He conquered things that were previously unimagined. He created a life that brought and continues to bring immense joy to his family and friends. He fought marvelously against every adversity that came his way. Ben was a diamond—so multifaceted and talented - but put under extreme trial and pressures his whole life. Like a diamond, he became more beautiful and compassionate and loving and serviceable through his hardships, refining him into a man more like his Savior, Jesus Christ. He leaves this earth completely honored, commended, respected, and adored by his family. He is our Buzzer and Angel. We love him.
He touched the lives and hearts of countless people as he battled back from his injuries, and only irritated a few of them in the process with his stubbornness. He was a devoted son, brother, uncle, and friend that will be sorely missed. He is survived by his parents of Woods Cross, Utah; siblings; Wayne and Melanie Van De Graaff of Albany, Oregon; Joseph and Kristin Van De Graaff of Lehi, Utah; Michael and Tiffany Egbert of Bountiful, Utah; Justin and Chelise Pitcher of Newark, Delaware; Steven and Mindy Van De Graaff of North Augusta, Georgia; Kara Van De Graaff of Phoenix, Arizona; and Daniel and Elizabeth Soffe of Santa Clara, California. Many nieces and nephews and dear friends also mourn his loss.
Be strong, be true Ben! We love you!
We invite you join us in the celebration of his life with funeral services at 2:00 pm, Friday, February 16, 2018 at the Woods Cross Stake Center, 2064 South 800 West. Woods Cross, Utah. Friends may visit family Thursday, February 15, 2018 from 6:00-8:00 pm at Lindquist’s Bountiful Mortuary, 727 N. 400 E. Bountiful, Utah and Friday, Feb 16th from 12:30-1:30 pm at the Woods Cross Stake Center prior to services. Interment Lakeview Memorial Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers and gifts, please donate to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Perpetual Education Fund. The online donation site can be located here: https://www.lds.org/topics/pef-self-reliance/donate
Ben loved learning and sharing knowledge with others. He was committed to sharing his joys with others. The Perpetual Education Fund represents many aspects of Ben’s life: a charitable heart willing to donate to better the lives of others. His gifts of charity will continue to perpetuate throughout this world despite his mortal absence from it.