Ben Watkins, 'MasterChef Junior' star who lost his parents, dies at 14 of rare cancer

His family said he was one of six people in the world to receive such a rare diagnosis.
Ben Watkins, who appeared on the sixth season of the hit Fox culinary competition "Masterchef Junior", has died at 14.
Ben Watkins, who appeared on the sixth season of the hit Fox culinary competition "Masterchef Junior", has died at 14.Erica Parise for FOX. 2018 FOX Broadcasting Co. / Erica Parise for FOX. 2018 FOX Broadcasting Co.
/ Source: TODAY

Indiana native Ben Watkins, who appeared on “MasterChef Junior” at the age of 11, has died from a rare form of cancer at the age of 14.

He started chemotherapy this summer for angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor that typically occurs in children and young adults.

His family said at the time he was one of six people in the world to receive such a rare diagnosis.

Ben told his uncle, Anthony Edwards, that he felt as if he was being “tortured” by the pain and his complicated treatments, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“We were praying for a different outcome,” Edwards told the newspaper. “But Ben’s lungs could no longer give him the air he needed to breathe. It’s been devastating.”

He passed away on Monday afternoon, his family confirmed.

Ben’s backstory has another tragic twist.

In September 2017, the aspiring chef lost both of his parents, Leila Edwards and Mike Watkins, in a murder-suicide, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Before his parents' passing, Ben had helped out at his family’s restaurant, which was named after him — Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue, Bakery & Deli. Though the restaurant closed the month his parents died, the aspiring chef remained passionate about food.

He appeared on the sixth season of Fox’s “MasterChef Junior” when he was just 11, finishing in the top 18.

In the years that followed his parents’ deaths, he would make his home with his uncle, Edwards, who became his legal guardian.

“Despite all the pain and sickness Ben went through, he never complained, not once,” Edwards told the newspaper after Ben’s death.

In a statement, Ben’s family thanked his hometown of Gary, Indiana for their support during his illness.

“Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know,” his grandmother and uncle said in a statement. “Ben suffered more than his share in his 14 years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knows he was loved by so many.”