Community and government leaders from across Harford County have poured out their sympathy for the family of County Council President Billy Boniface in the wake of his 20-year-old son's sudden death.
Described as a "pure happy simple soul" and a "vibrant" and "tremendous" young man, Benjamin Joseph Boniface was killed early Monday morning while driving a pickup through the family's Darlington farm.
People of all ages and from all walks of life across the county appeared stunned by the news. The family has deep generational roots in the county and the state.
The tragedy was a major topic at Monday night's Havre de Grace City Council meeting, where Pastor Nick McDonald, chaplain of Upper Chesapeake Health, referred to it in his opening prayer.
McDonald said the death cast "a pall" over the community and asked God to send "a spirit of consolation" to the Boniface family.
He said the hospital has a program for those who have lost children, and said he knows residents will be looking for ways to help the Bonifaces.
The Bel Air Board of Bel Air Town Commissioners and members of the Bush River Community Council held a moment of silence for the Boniface family at their respective meetings Monday night.
An obituary sent by the family Tuesday said Ben Boniface was working as an arborist as well as on the family farm, and was a "gifted guitarist" who liked bluegrass music and playing the mandolin.
In addition to his father and his mother, Barbara, Mr. Boniface is survived by an older brother, William, and a younger sister, Bethany.
"He was an avid golfer and loved spending time on Deer Creek with his friends more than anything," the obituary reads.
Mr. Boniface played lacrosse and volleyball at John Carroll.
Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at McComas Funeral Home in Abingdon, and a Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Aberdeen.
Interment will follow at Darlington Cemetery, and the family is asking for contributions to be sent to a memorial fund for Ben Boniface, c/o Harford Bank, 8 West Bel Air Ave., Aberdeen, MD 21001.
State Sen. Barry Glassman, a longtime friend of Billy Boniface and his political mentor, said the family has received "an outpouring of condolences from the community and the farming community and the horse community." The family owns Bonita Farm, a thoroughbred horse breeding and training farm, where Monday's tragedy occurred.
Glassman called the Bonifaces "a strong family," but in the face of such tragedy, he was doing what he could to "get them through this."
Richard O'Hara, president of Ben Boniface's alma mater, the John Carroll School, said he was a "wonderful" and "vibrant young man from a terrific family."
"Our school community is shocked and truly devastated by the loss of Ben," O'Hara wrote in an e-mailed statement. "We're trying our very best to reach out to the Bonifaces in faith and love."
Several Havre de Grace City Council members spoke about the Bonifaces' tragedy at their meeting Monday.
City Council President Randy Craig thanked the chaplain for his condolences and said he recognizes the "tough time" the county council president and his family are going to have.
"I was quite surprised this morning as I was going through my morning news to see that come out," City Councilman Joe Smith said.
Smith said he does not know Billy Boniface's family that well, but has seen the county council president around town.
"That sort of tragedy is a very difficult one to deal with for anyone," he said.
City Councilman David Glenn also sent his thoughts and prayers to the family.
"I can't imagine what they're going through right now," he said.
Aegis reporter Kayla Bawroski contributed to this article.