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Originally published Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 7:20 PM

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Benjamin Huppe, Garfield grad, nonprofit entrepreneur, dies at 20

Benjamin Huppe, a 2010 graduate of Garfield High School who helped create a nonprofit that brings computers to developing nations, died Saturday in a car accident in Kitsap County.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Very sad for us all to see a kid go so young. Condolences to all Mr. Hupp's family and... MORE
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RIP, fine young Sir. MORE

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When Benjamin Huppe was still a sophomore at Seattle's Garfield High School, he already believed that innovative technologies could save the world. Before his graduation in 2010, he was repairing old computers and setting up computer labs in developing nations.

"He was one of those students every teacher wants to have — curious, patient with himself and with others," said his former Garfield computer-science teacher, Helene Martin. "He was always looking for opportunities to contribute, even to peers he didn't know very well."

Mr. Huppe died Saturday morning when his car veered off Southeast Sedgwick Road near the Southworth ferry dock in Kitsap County. He was 20.

The Washington State Patrol is investigating the accident, but according to the victim's mother, Maggie Lewis, he may have fallen asleep, causing the car to tumble down a 30-foot bank and strike a tree.

The family had been attending a wedding on Bainbridge Island, and Mr. Huppe was on his way to work at a solar energy company on Vashon Island, one of two summer internships he held, when the accident occurred.

Mr. Huppe would have been a junior this fall at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., where he majored in engineering. Last year he was one of two sophomore class presidents and made the dean's list in both his freshman and sophomore years.

When he was still at Garfield High, Mr. Huppe helped start the nonprofit Technologies Service Corps. He had been part of Garfield's Global Technology Academy when district funding cuts forced its closure. But rather than let the program's work end, he and other students, teachers and parents banded together and formed the nonprofit, which picked up where the academy left off, refurbishing computers and taking students to villages in other countries to help set up computer laboratories.

Mr. Huppe was a leader in rekindling the project and was on its board of directors, said his friend Neil Hinnan.

"Ben was one of the best people I knew, one of the most committed," Hinnan said. "It says a lot about him that at 16 or 17 he'd work to keep this program alive. It was clear he was committed to service and leadership."

Mr. Huppe grew up in West Seattle. His mother and his father, Bob Huppe, both encouraged his efforts with Technologies Service Corps. Politics was his other love, his mother said.

"He was so smart and had so much hope for doing things in the world," she said. "He was really engaged in the real political process and in tune with current events."

While in high school Mr. Huppe told a reporter from the school newspaper about one trip with the nonprofit.

"It wasn't fun because we missed school; it was fun because we were able to install 70 computers in a town and region that had very little access to the technology; it was fun because we were able to interact with people our own age in another country; it was fun because I felt like I belonged to something."

"In high school, everyone is up to mischief," said his friend Zach Wener-Fligner. "But he wasn't that sort of guy. He just was outstanding in the things he did. He was defined by the things he was involved in."

When Mr. Huppe left Garfield, he and other students wrote their fictional "wills" to fellow students. In his, he wrote of a trip with the nonprofit to India: "This was the most eye opening trip and I was glad to be able to gain such a profound knowledge of the poverty in the world ... I will never forget what I saw and will take that knowledge with me for the rest of my life."

Then he willed "his heart and soul" to the nonprofit he helped start.

Memorial services have not yet been set.

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @BartleyNews.

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