Perhaps the greatest thing you can say about a person is that he or she inspires others.
In the case of the courage shown by Ben Harder and his long battle with a monstrous disease, there can be no greater example of strength to admire.
Harder, a long-time Levittown resident, waged a battle against pancreatic cancer for a number of years and yet still managed to keep his streak going of competing in just about every one of the 22 Sesame Place Classic races dating back to 1999.
Even last year, with cancer having reduced his body to a shell of itself, the 65-year-old showed up at Sesame for one more trip across the finish line as his family group, affectionately known as “Ben’s Brigade,” cheered him on.
Sadly, Ben passed away on March 26. This year’s Classic is coming up in a few weeks (May 21) and you can be sure he will be there in spirit.
Ben’s Brigade, which counts at least 20 of the group’s special T-shirt-wearing members, will be on hand to make sure his memory will live on through family members, friends and all those who admired Ben’s fortitude.
“It’s very important,” said Ben’s brother Arthur during a telephone conversation, “because he was an avid outdoorsman, a sportsman who liked to stay physically fit. He went into remission after his 2019 organ surgeries and had to go through a bout with chemotherapy.
“That picked him back up. He went from a 70-pound walking skeleton back into a more normal 120 pounds. Eventually the disease caught up to him again but he fought to the end.”
Ben was transported via wheelchair over the Sesame 1-Miler course last May, then stood up and walked across the finish line.
Included in Ben’s Brigade are his siblings Chloebelle, Rosen and Eleanor, along with Arthur and his wife, Jacqueline; their two daughters (Nicolette and Pamela) plus grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
As we wrote in a column last year, Ben missed only one Classic and there was a good reason for that.
“I overslept,” he said with a chuckle.
Back in the day, Harder was quite the athlete. The native of the Phillipines competed in everything from power lifting to ice hockey. In 1980 he ranked in the top 10 in the United States – at 135 pounds he could bench press 380 pounds, nearly three times his body weight.
Along the way he picked up various degrees at East Stroudsburg, Southern Mississippi and Northwestern universities. At the latter, he earned certaification in the field of prosthesis development.
If you’re at the Classic and happen to see Ben’s Brigade, be sure to give a cheer. His memory is worth honoring.
>Bucks bedazzles Broad Street
There were some pretty soggy conditions for Sunday’s Broad Street Run 10-miler but they didn’t slow down a strong contingent of Bucks County runners in Philadelphia.
On the men’s side, Doylestown native Josh Izewski, now living in North Carolina, placed seventh overall in an excellent time of 46 minutes.
In women’s competition, Newtown’s Christine Lloyd medaled in the 50-54 age group with a third-place finish in 1:09.05.
>Top male finishers from Bucks:
16-and-under: 14th, Quinn Cataldi, Warminster, 1:10.41.
17-20: 3rd, Robby Lloyd, Newtown, 55:57; 18th, Joey Sulewski, Washington Crossing, 1:06.24.
21-24: 9th, Alex Carideo, Morrisville, 52:55; 24th, Alex Hofer, Doylestown, 57:57.
25-29: 57th, Nicholas Volpe, Southampton, 58:48.
30-34: 26th, Cameron Erhardt, Bristol, 54:49.
35-39: 7th, Andrew Van Hoogenstyn, Newtown, 52:33; 25th, Jason Benham, Feasterville, 58:41.
40-44: 2nd, Steve Gourley, Doylestown, 52:39.
50-54: 11th, Larry Harkins, Morrisville, 1:04.08; 14th, Christian Carabello, Yardley, 1:04.59; 15th, Pat Donadio, Bensalem, 1:05.00; 16th, Vitaly Belotserkovsky, Ivyland, 1:05.11.
55-59: 9th, Paul Lancaster, Newtown, 1:08.10; 30th, Rick McGarry, Doylestown, 1:12.23; 32nd, Tony Pereira, Newtown, 1:12.29.
60-64: 4th, Luogang Wei, Warrington, 1:08.08; 9th, Pete Carideo, Morrisville, 1:10.50; 18th, Joe Boyce, Levittown, 1:14.14; 24th, James Larson, Langhorne, 1:16.02.
65-69: 4th, Rick Mingione, Yardley, 1:10.23; 5th, Bob Boland, Warrington, 1:11.31.
70-74: 3rd, Dave Broadbent, Perkasie, 1:23.10; 8th, Mike Fournier, Warrington, 1:30.20.
75-79: 5th, Ed Hawkey, Perkasie, 1:36.39; 12th, Terry Tracey, Washington Crossing, 1:48.08.
>Top female finishers from Bucks
16-and-under: 5th, Savannah Zeaman, Warminster, 1:13.22.
17-20: 4th, Hannah Rafferty, Southampton, 1:11.35; 11th, Maya Kowalska, Feasterville, 1:16.10; 19th, MaryKate McShane, Warrington, 1:19.07.
21-24: 19th, Kayla Connelly, Quakertown, 1:07.15.
35-39: 16th, Jenna Fasula, Yardley, 1:05.24.
40-44: 14th, Allyson Thompson, Langhorne, 1:06.37; 24th, Lori Wade, Richboro, 1:10.41.
50-54: 3rd, Christine Lloyd, Newtown, 1:09.05; 10th, Rebecca Armbruster, Bensalem, 1:15.04; 20th, Nichole Curran, New Hope, 1:18.08.
55-59: 4th, Lisa Kuliczkowski, Yardley, 1:12.25; 8th, Annabelle Broadbent, Perkasie, 1:15.37; 13th, Stephanie Young-Rothrock, Morrisville, 1:18.38.
70-74: 4th, Monica Fournier, Warrington, 1:39.48; 7th, Regina Hart, Doylestown, 1:52.32; 11th, Vlatka Moll, Doylestown, 1:54.29.
75-79: 3rd, Stephanie van Rhyn, Newtown, 2:12.12; 4th, Trish Kolanis, Bensalem, 2:12.40.
Congratulations to all.