Ben Runnels, 32, was many things.
He was Ben Benjamin, half of the “croonwave” synth band Introflirt. He was the musician who used to go by the stage name Charlie Prowler. He was a radio DJ and vintage crooner and a caring friend and lover of coffee. He was a student of music and of human emotion.
“Ben didn’t have the capacity to not care. He was intrinsically a compassionate, loving soul,” writes friend, Dawn Marie, in a remembrance of Runnels, who died in the Oakland warehouse fire. When she had to be treated for cancer, she says, Runnels jumped in to help manage her streaming radio station. He offered to do anything he could – even though the two had never met in person; at that point, they had only exchanged long and winding emails about the oddities of life.
Runnels, who moved to Oakland in 2011, had been a popular DJ at the alternative station WEQX in Vermont, where he hosted the show Jam n’ Toast. He was originally from Mariaville, New York, near Albany, but was drawn west by the music scene in the Bay Area. Both his parents and his sister flew out to Oakland after hearing news of the fire.
Two years ago, Runnels teamed up with Nicole Siegrist, who went by Denalda Nicole Renae, to form the synth pop band, Introflirt. Their tag line: “the soundtrack for the socially awkward.” Renae was also a victim of the Ghost Ship fire.