Tragedy unites us

WELL-KNOWN Fremantle foodie Ben French drew his last breath in the early hours of April 10.

Peace has come to the beloved gentle giant, who co-owned popular food truck Eat No Evil, after he suffered severe head trauma, multiple broken bones and punctured organs from a scooter accident in Thailand on March 28.

While French’s accident and eventual passing has generated significant media attention across Perth and Australia, the past two weeks have reinforced one thing—you don’t have to grieve alone in Fremantle.

• Ben French. Photo
by
Anna
Gallagher

Fond memories 

Early news of French’s accident and mounting medical bills transformed the city’s collective sadness into powerful action.

Fremantle asked itself “How can we help our mate?”

The response—led by family, friends and the young cultural backbone of baristas, cooks, bar staff and artists—has left Freo swelling with pride.

Within hours a Go Fund Me page was set up by family members. Over 12 days, 983 people raised just over $94,800.

Alongside generous donations were empowering comments of support.

Hospitality workers shared fond memories of slinging around fish tacos and canapés with French, and his mate Ben Foss, in their popular Eat No Evil food truck.

Sadness

The page encouraged us to express our frustrations, hope and support, and it became a virtual town hall reminding us that help is always around.

One acquaintance, who had experienced a similar loss, wrote: “I am happy to offer advice on dealing with that grief. I have no right to do that and I understand if you want no advice, but I thought I would offer. I can empathise with what you guys are going through.”

Locals rallied around and organised a fundraiser at East Freo Jetty on Easter Monday.

Under the clear night sky, against the glow of the harbour and a gentle breeze, mates auctioned off art and raffle prizes.

Long lines snaked around the buzzing food trucks Flying Falafels, Gary’s Diner and French’s Eat No Evil.

• Locals collect donations for Ben French at the East Freo Jetty, close to where his food van Eat No Evil operated. Photo by Alan Holbrook

Three hundred people enjoyed music from Freo artists like The Durongs, Racoo Charles, Shiny Joe Ryan, Galloping Foxleys, Salary and Jack Davies.

In less than three hours the food was gone and another $10,000 was raised.

Close mate and local carpenter Jarrah Stevenson-Marsh recalled how the event provided space for a hurting community to channel its sadness, including his own.

“Being able to direct my energy to fundraising gave me so much purpose and it generated great feedback and love from the community,” he said.

A brother

“It gave us all so much.”

By Friday April 6, French would return home to Perth Royal Hospital and continue healing.

What came next gutted the hearts of the vigilant hopeful.

French’s injuries had taken a quick and dramatic turn.

Doctors had run out of options to bring him back.

His family made the painful decision to let him go from this world.

Now Fremantle must say goodbye to Ben French.

Our puffy eyes and long faces can’t hide that a mate, a brother and a son is no longer with us.

The life-long marathon of grief continues and each of us will run it differently.

The spirit displayed by our city in the past two weeks proves that it’s a journey we can run together.

by KAVI GUPPTA

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