LACONIA — A former Laconia High School student, Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, was one of four Americans killed in a suicide-bombing this week in northern Syria, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday.
He leaves a wife and four young children.
Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon M. Kent, 35, of upstate New York and Department of Defense civilian Scott A. Writz of St. Louis also were killed, the department said. The name of the fourth American, a civilian contractor, was not released. In all, 16 people died.
Farmer, 37, played on the school’s baseball and basketball team and completed his sophomore year before his family moved to Florida in 1997, Principal Mike Fredericksen said.
After moving from Laconia, he went to the Benjamin School in Palm Beach and then Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
He joined the Army in 2005, trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, and became a special forces engineer sergeant. Farmer, who was a resident of Boynton Beach, Florida, was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, an Army spokesman.
Tim Steuer, a teacher at Laconia High School, coached the baseball team that included Farmer. He was more than 6-feet-tall even as a young high school student.
“It broke my heart when he moved,” Steuer said. “He was going to be my stud catcher.”
He said two of Farmer’s older brothers, Matt and Peter, graduated from the high school and were also athletes. Their father worked as an attorney locally.
Farmer's parents, Duncan and JoBeth Farmer, live in Palm Beach Gardens.
“The family had four boys,” Steuer said. “They probably drove mom crazy growing up.
“We had a lot of baseball events, team feeds. They are a great family. We played basketball on the driveway.”
Steuer said he kept in touch with Jonathan Farmer after the young man began attending Benjamin School, where he also played baseball and basketball.
“He’d write and tell me stories,” Steuer said. “He told me Mike Schmidt was his batting instructor. The next thing I know I received a baseball in the mail autographed by Mike Schmidt.”
Schmidt, a Hall of Fame third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, was helping out at the school because his son was also a student there.
Steuer said he gradually lost touch with Farmer, but the young man remembered his coach and his old school.
“He called up and said, ‘Can I stop by the school and talk to the kids about going into the military?’” recalled Steuer, who teaches history and government.
“He was 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5. He was going into the Special Forces. He just about took up the whole doorway walking in.”
Clayton Rose, president of Bowdoin College, said Farmer graduated from that school in 2003.
“He served on 10 overseas tours, including six combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, most recently in Syria," Rose said. “Jon received numerous awards and decorations during his time in the military, including the Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, and the Army Commendation Medal.
“At Bowdoin, he was a history major and a forward and captain of the 2003-2004 men’s basketball team. His teammate, roommate, and close friend, Michael Harding ’03, remembered Jon today as a ‘loyal and selfless friend.’”
Bowdoin basketball coach Tim Gilbride called Farmer “a great teammate and competitor” and “a quality person — someone we all enjoyed being around.”
In May 2004, Farmer was awarded the William J. Fraser Trophy given to the player "who best exemplifies the spirit of Bowdoin basketball.”
Farmer graduated from the Benjamin School in 1999.
A statement on the prep school’s website talked about his time there:
“We remember Jon as a great student and athlete who truly excelled on the basketball team. The Benjamin School is proud of Jon's service to our country, and we mourn with the rest of the nation at the loss of a true American warrior.”
David Bailey, the school’s head athletic trainer, praised Farmer.
“Jon made such an impact on me when he came to the school,” Bailey said. “He was an incredible person and made the school a better place by being here. Mature beyond his years and a true leader."