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Ben Boniface honored at Harford Farm Fair with memorial plaque, T-shirts

Ben Boniface was remembered at this year's Harford County Farm Fair, with one young woman making a plaque in his honor and one sponsor, The Mill, making T-shirts with Boniface's initials.

Amy Poteet, 20, grew up in the 4-H world alongside Mr. Boniface, both of them showing hogs at the Harford County Farm Fair since they were 8 years old.

"We would always [have hogs] in the same stall and he would always be across from me," the Whiteford resident recalled Friday. "When I think of him, I think of the fair." 

After learning of Mr. Boniface's abrupt death June 18 while driving a pickup truck on his family's farm, Poteet and her family decided to honor him with a memorial plaque in the Harford County Farm Fair 4-H hog barn where Mr. Boniface, who was also 20, had always been a presence in their 4-H days.

She presented the plaque to members of the Boniface family at a meeting of the 4-H livestock group Wednesday, at the urging of the livestock coordinator. 

Poteet said she asked Billy Boniface, Ben Boniface's father and president of the Harford County Council, if the plaque would be all right with him.

The Boniface family seemed moved by the presentation, she said.

"They were very grateful. I think they started to break down a little bit but I did speak to Billy beforehand," she said. "He said he would very much appreciate it."

"I presented it to them, we hung it up together and we talked about it," Poteet said. Next to the plaque a few photographs of Mr. Boniface were also displayed.

Ben Boniface's younger sister, Bethany, showed 4-H animals at this year's Farm Fair, which opened Thursday morning and closed Sunday at the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air. Billy Boniface was helping out around the 4-H barns at the fair Thursday afternoon.

"I think it hit them when they came back to the fair again and having their kids in 4-H for so many years, and only having one in it now, I think it really hit home," Poteet said.

Poteet is too old to show swine with 4-H, but she is still active in the livestock auction and has animals in the Farm Fair petting area, as well as a cow in the show.

Poteet also hopes the memorial plaque can remind visitors and fellow 4-Hers, whom she called "kind of one big family," of Ben Boniface and his longtime presence at the fair.

"I think it was just total shock," Poteet said of her reaction to his death. "It didn't really sink in until we went to the viewing and saw his family."

The plaque has been helping people remember Ben Boniface, she said.

"Everyone was very thankful for it, said it was a good thing to do and they are happy that someone stepped up to do it," she said. "I think everyone was a little bit surprised by it, but in a good way."

Shirts for sale

A handful of 4-H parents also wanted to memorialize Mr. Boniface and worked with fair sponsor The Mill on the T-shirts that The Mill annually distributes to all 4-H participants and parents.

Parents Pam and John Stump, along with Mike Schneider, suggested adding "BJB" to the sleeve of the orange shirts, The Mill's owner Henry Holloway said.

"We were running out of T-shirts," Holloway said. "We had people calling us wanting to buy them."

The staff quickly decided to print up more shirts and start selling them for $10, with $5 going toward the foundation established in Mr. Boniface's name.

Holloway said most shirts still went to 4-H-ers, but he guessed the sale made about $250 for the Boniface fund.

"Ben was a very special person," Holloway explained about the demand for the shirts. "He was exceptionally well-liked. He had a very big group of friends, and not just kids his age, but there were kids who looked up to him, and parents as well."

"Agriculture is a very small community and Darlington is a very small community," he continued. "The fact that Ben passed influenced a large group of people, and it was such an untimely death that there was no reason for. It's just bad luck."

"He was just such a good kid," Holloway said. "Hopefully [the sale] was good for Billy and Barb [Boniface], but it was very good for the rest of us."

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