CHICAGO (NEXSTAR) – “MasterChef Junior” alum Ben Watkins has died at 14 after battling cancer, according to a statement from the Indiana teen’s family.
“Our Ben went home to be with his mother Monday afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer,” the statement from his maternal grandmother and uncle read.
Watkins, who appeared on the sixth season of the cooking show at the age of 11, was diagnosed with a rare soft tissue cancer, angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, just after his 13th birthday this summer, according to a GoFundMe created by family members. He was receiving treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Three years before the diagnosis, Watkins lost both of his parents in a murder-suicide, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life,” his relatives wrote. “He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know. When Ben’s rare illness was shared with the world, he was so heartened by the outpouring of love he received from every corner of the globe – especially here in Gary, Indiana.”
Before the loss of his parents, the aspiring chef worked with them to open Big Ben’s Bodacious BBQ and Delicatessen in the Miller community of Gary. Ben also dreamed of becoming an engineer, his family said.
“Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many,” the statement read.