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Remembering WINK News chief photographer Ben Colwell, whose influential life was cut short

A special member of our WINK News team, chief photographer Ben Colwell, died on Wednesday, May 20.

His life was cut short at the age of 41 from health complications not COVID-19 related, but Ben certainly made an impact.

“He probably has no idea how many lives he’s touched,” his mother, Susan Colwell, said. “His life had a ripple effect.”

That ripple effect started on May 14th, 1979, when Susan Colwell and her husband, LeWayne, welcomed their fourth child, Benjamin John Colwell.

“He was just energetic,” Susan said of her son. “He used to pretend to be a newscaster. He’d have us sit down and he’d have everything set up, and pretend to do the news.”

Ben followed his passion for video journalism from New York to Arizona to Fort Myers.

“He was always trying to better himself,” LeWayne said. “We always loved watching his (video) stuff. He would email us things that were gonna be on WINK News.”

Their son loved to travel and to share adventures with his dog, Tempe.

“He loved Tempe, there’s nothing he loved more than his dog,” LeWayne said.

Since losing their son, the Colwells said they’re amazed at the number of people reaching out to share how Ben touched their life, and appreciate hearing how he helped his coworkers and friends.

“He got along very good with everybody,” LeWayne said.

His loved ones remember him for his infectious laugh, big smile, and huge heart he happily shared.

“He set a very good example, and he was a good boss, so that makes us proud parents,” Susan said. “We have that comfort that we’ll see him again, and he’ll always be our son…we just love him.”

You can read the official obituary here.

From the WINK News team:

Photographer Nick Smeloff: “Ben is a fantastic person who was a great person to work with through my career … He cared about his stories and it was always an honor to work with him.”

Photographer Eric Mills: “My fondest memory of Ben was he always showed up to work or to a scene, and he’d always say, ‘Hey, what’s happening?’ Like, he always had a good smile, and it was comforting to be around. Like, we could get things done during the day.”

Photographer Joseph Lyshon: “He would always give you the time of day …
Came to work with a good attitude every day.

Former WINK News Reporter Brooke Shafer: “I used to joke with Ben that he could convince anybody to go on camera and he pretty much could.”

Environmental Reporter Stephanie Byrne: “Ben was such a joy to have around here and he made all of the new reporters feel so welcome.”

Investigative Reporter Sara Girard: “He taught me how to shoot (video) and he was just fun to be around. We’re really gonna miss his light and his energy around here.”

Executive Producer Kelly Storch: “Class act all the way around. I think the best memory personally I have with Ben is we always talked about our dogs. Ben was such a big dog guy and we used to always show each other pictures and videos.”

Reporter Lauren Sweeney: “You were the kind of guy that any reporter would want to get stuck in an emergency situation with. You really cared about your coworkers and we cared about you too – Gone too soon and we won’t forget you. I hope some of your puppies are up there in heaven with you.

Digital Director Derrick Shaw: “Ben was the type of person you could count on. When my wedding photographer fell through the day before, he offered out of the kindness of his heart and photographed the ceremony. Every time I see those happy memories he’ll be there too.”

Reporter Melinda Lee: “Ben was my videojournalism mentor at work, helping me better capture the world around me from behind a lens. But more than that, Ben was my friend, always cheering me on and cheering me up through his electric enthusiasm for life, his fun ideas, competitiveness, his silly faces, and his jokes that were often followed by his own laughter endorsing them (ha!). I’ll always be grateful Ben and I became neighbors so I could have the privilege of getting to know the animated, loving, funny, amazing man behind the TV news camera. He lives on in our stories we share with smiles and laughs he inspired.”

Author: Melinda Lee and Derrick Shaw
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