By NATHANIEL BRYAN, The News-Enterprise
ELIZABETHTOWN — Driving his daughter, Caitlyn, back from Nicholasville after a practice round Monday, Eddie Wilkerson saw a Buick Park Avenue in an accident on the Martha Layne Collins Blue Grass Parkway.
“I knew how bad it was from the crash scene. It was horrible. I looked at Caitlyn and told her that I didn’t think there was any way someone could have lived through that,” Wilkerson said.
That someone was 19-year-old Ben Napier, a 2008 John Hardin High School graduate who played under Wilkerson for two seasons when Wilkerson was the Bulldogs’ coach.
Napier, who was preparing for his sophomore season on the Campbellsville University men’s golf team, was pronounced dead at Hardin Memorial Hospital later Monday night.
Dr. Michael V. Carter, president at Campbellsville University said, "We are saddened by the tragic death of Ben Napier. He was a fine young man and leaves a lasting imprint upon the Campellsville University community. Our heartfelt prayers and expression of sympathy are extended to his family and friends."
Kyle Blackston, a 2009 John Hardin grad who will play for Troy University this fall, was in a Florida hotel Monday, preparing to play in a golf tournament Tuesday, when he received a phone call around 11:30 p.m. informing him Napier had passed away.
“It was something else when I got that phone call,” Blackston said. “I was probably up from 12 to 3 (a.m.). I couldn’t go to sleep. He was like my brother almost. It bothered me. I didn’t want to believe it.
It was pretty rough out there (on the golf course Tuesday) and I started crying on the first hole,” added Blackston, who won region tournament titles with Napier in 2005 and 2006. “Playing golf with him was everything. Last night I saw every memory from our region championships flash before my eyes.”
Both Wilkerson and Blackston talked about how Napier always seemed to have a smile on his face, a memory echoed by several people close to him.
“He was always smiling. It never failed. He didn’t want anybody not to have a good time,” said Kaela Smith, a member of the Campbellsville women’s golf team and a former Central Hardin standout. “This shows you have to live life to the fullest because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. This shows it can happen to anybody, anytime, anywhere. There’s no picking and choosing.”
Napier, a Lexington native, lived with former John Hardin standout and current University of Louisville player Karsten Clements in the fall of 2005.
“I didn’t know him the last couple of years as well as I would have liked which makes it hurt a little worse. It’s still sinking in today,” Clements said. “Ben was always a cut up. He was real funny, but once he got on the golf course, he was a fiery guy. He didn’t have any fear. He’d hit and go hit it again. The time we got to spend together on the golf course was great.”
John Hardin athletic director Greg Cecil said there were more than 40 teens at the hospital Monday night in support of Napier.
“Ben was a really good boy. He was a good kid. He was full of life. He liked to have fun, have a good time and joke with people. He was a lot of fun to be around,” Cecil said. “Last night at the hospital was a testament to the type of kids in this area as well as at John Hardin. They really supported each other and that was good to see.”
Napier is the third current or former John Hardin athlete to die in the last five years. Football player and track athlete JaMark McCloud, 16, died in July 2007 from injuries sustained diving accident, while basketball player Dominik Bonano, 17, died Feb. 10, 2005, from injuries sustained in a car accident.
“A lot of good athletes from this school are passing way,” Blackston said. “And I’m still getting some phone calls and voicemails and text messages. This hit a lot of people. No one expected Ben to go away this quick.”
Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758
Obituary for Ben Napier
Ben Gregory Napier II, 19 of Elizabethtown, died Monday, July 20, 2009 at Hardin Memorial Hospital as a result of an automobile accident. He was a native of Lexington and a 2008 graduate of John Hardin High School. He was attending Campbellsville University on a golf scholarship where he was getting ready to enter his second year. He worked at Valvoline. He is survived by his mother, Melody F. Mudd of Ft. Walton Beach, FL; his father and step mother, Bernie and Liz Napier of Lexington; two brothers, Travis Jeter of Ft. Walton Beach and Nicholas Napier of Lexington; one sister, Clara Mudd of Springfield; his maternal grandparents, Gary and Barbara Feldman of Louisville; his paternal grandparents, Joyce and Clark Napier of Lexington; his aunts and uncles, Jeff and Donna Napier of Lexington, Gary and Diana Thalacker of Mt. Washington and Doug and Lori Feldman of Pierson, FL and a cousin, Hannah Thalacker. Graveside services will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at Bluegrass Memorial Gardens in Lexington with Rev. Robert Grout officiating. Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m.
Wednesday at Brown Funeral Home in Elizabethtown. Expression of sympathy may take the form of Contributions to Campbellsville University Golf Team. Condolences may be expressed online at www.brownfuneral.com.
Posted on Thu, July 23, 2009
by Ashley Zsedenyi filed under