GORHAM – Ben Worster was a respected officer at the Maine Correctional Center and a decorated Army veteran, who served a tour in Iraq and received numerous medals and accolades for his expertise in marksmanship and sniper operations. Closer to home, he was a loving son and devoted father to his 5-year-old daughter, Emma. He had a strong network of loyal friends and a fearless passion for life.

“He was a fun, smart-alecky brat,” his mother, Christy Cousins, said chuckling Friday. “Ben had the biggest heart. He just loved life.”

Mr. Worster’s passion for life turned tragic Wednesday, the first day of summer. The temperature soared to around 90 degrees. He escaped to Sebago Lake, where he spent the day boating, swimming and tubing with his friends.

That afternoon, Mr. Worster and his friend Brian Donahue climbed to the top of Frye’s Leap. He took a few steps backward and ran. He jumped out over the water and flipped in the air, landing in the lake on his left side. He never resurfaced.

His friends jumped into the lake and began searching, but couldn’t find him. They called 911. Divers from the Cumberland County Sheriff Office’s found his body near the base of the cliffs later that day. He was 29 years old.

“Ben had the best day of his life on the last day of his life,” his mother said. “He loved to show off. He was up there and people were egging him on. He thought he was invincible. He was extremely athletic. He was strong. He swam like a fish. There was nothing he couldn’t do.”

Born Durward Worster, he attended Gorham High School. Two months before he was supposed to graduate, he dropped out. He told his mother he had had enough. It was shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. He set his mind on joining the Army and took the GED exam.

“He scored high enough to get into the University of Southern Maine, but we knew that would happen. I was petrified,” his mother said of him joining the Army. “He played Army when he was little. He wanted to be a soldier and serve and protect his country.”

Mr. Worster, who grew up shooting with his father and grandmother, became a decorated Army sniper. He served as team leader of 1st Platoon, 2nd Quad, 2-5 1st Calvary during his tour in Iraq. He received numerous honors and medals, including the Army Commendation Medal. He held expert military qualifications in 11 different weapons systems.

His father, Durward R. Worster, thought back to the first time he took his son shooting when he was 3 years old. He reminisced about the times they went hunting and fishing, noting how it helped make their relationship stronger.

“We were real close,” his father said. “I really admired how much of a man he had become and what a great dad he was.”

Mr. Worster was a loving father to his daughter, who will turn 6 next month. His mother said he would take his daughter fishing and plop her up on the tractor for a ride.

“The love of his life was his daughter,” she said. “He thought she was it, and Emma is. He made an adventure out of everything they did. Ben just adored her.”

Mr. Worster was an officer at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham for the past five years. He served on the department’s Correctional Emergency Response Team and was highly respected by other officers.

“He took to corrections very well,” said Scott Burnheimer, superintendent of the correctional center. “He was well respected by the staff and demanded respect of the prisoners. We had high regards for him. He is missed by a lot of our staff already.”

Mr. Worster’s friends are taking his death hard. He was described by many of them Friday as a loyal friend, who enjoyed water sports, riding his motorcycle, and hunting and fishing.

Donahue, the friend and fellow corrections officer he climbed to the top of Frye’s Leap with, said Mr. Worster was like a brother to him.

“You didn’t wonder if Ben would pick up the phone,” he said. “He was always there to lend a hand.”

Donahue recalled the conversation they had at the top of Frye’s Leap. He told Mr. Worster he was worried about how far he would have to leap to clear the rocks on the cliff.

“The last thing (he) said was not to think about it — and just do it,” Donahue recalled. “I saw him hit the water and I knew it wasn’t good. Everything was so perfect. We had a blast. It seemed like he knew and he was OK with it. He was just at peace with everything. He was the happiest I’ve seen him. He was Ben, but times 10. He died doing something he loved to do.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]