Benjamin ‘Ben’ Hunter Jr., 50, UNCW basketball superfan and friend to many is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Benjamin Hunter Jr. and Coach Kevin Keatts
Benjamin Hunter Jr. and UNCW men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts

Benjamin ‘Ben’ Hunter Jr., a familiar, smiling face within the community, died Sunday, March 27, 2016. He was 50.

Ben was best known for his faithful attendance at University of North Carolina-Wilmington basketball games.

“I don’t think he ever missed a game. The school thought of him, and he was very well liked. At times, over the years, he was invited to sit in reserved seating,” said the Rev. Dr. Terry Henry, senior pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington, where Hunter was a parishioner.

Henry met Hunter many years ago while he working in the Exceptional Children’s Program within New Hanover County Schools at New Hanover High School. Though Hunter had long completed the program, their paths would cross at special events, including the annual Special Olympics hosted by UNCW and when Hunter would stop by the school to say hello to previous teachers.

Though Hunter lived on his own, he had family, friends and a case worker who routinely checked on him to make sure he had everything he needed, Henry said.

Hunter spent his days out and about in the community. He had a penchant for fast food and getting to know the regulars within the restaurants he frequented. His new-found friends often picked up the tab after sharing a meal and a lot of conversation.

Always on the move, looking for his next adventure and conversation, Hunter covered a lot of territory by walking and riding Wave Transit buses. “All of the bus drivers knew him, and they looked out for him. He was all over; anywhere the bus went, he was there,” said Henry.

Henry said his church’s phone has been ringing off the hook since the news of Hunter’s death.

“I think Ben belonged to every church in Wilmington,” he joked. The church has been inundated with phone calls from other churches offering their assistance and asking what they can do to help with Hunter’s funeral.

Clergy and parishioners from Winter Park Baptist Church, Union Missionary Baptist Church, Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, Basilica Shrine of Saint Mary and Northside Baptist Church will be in attendance at Hunter’s funeral, along with many of the bus drivers from Wave Transit.

“Here is a man in his death that is pulling people together; I think that speaks volumes,” said Henry.

Mr. Hunter is survived by four brothers, David Dowd, Julian Dowd, and his wife, Helen, and Lawrence Dowd, and his wife, Lena, all of Wilmington, and John Dowd, and his wife, Sharon, of Chester, Va.; one sister, Debra Dowd of Wilmington; and many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 1, at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. A homegoing service will be held will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 2, at the church.

Funeral arrangements by John H. Shaw’s Son Funeral Home.

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