Jonathan Hartman died in a car accident just days before he was going to graduate from Harlem High School. (WRDW-TV / May 9, 2012)
News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, May 9, 2012
HARLEM, Ga. -- The Harlem community is mourning the loss of a high school senior who was set to graduate in just 10 days.
Jonathan Hartman was killed in a car wreck Tuesday night after he lost control of his car on Scotts Ferry Road. "Jonny" played football, basketball and tennis at Harlem High School.
Now, his friends and coaches are finding ways to honor his life.
Kim Chambers is the Basketball coach at HHS and worked with Jonny on and off the court for four years.
"He was just one of those people that everybody liked," Chambers said.
It was a quiet day at school as students signed messages and offered prayers for Jonathan.
"People are very sad. The mood is somber here, no question. They decorated Jonathan's locker. They also decorated the rock out front," Chambers said.
Hartman's friends say the high school senior was known for being well-rounded, friendly and hard-working. His sash from winning "Winterfest King" last year still hangs in the locker room.
"If you had a daughter, Jonathan was the person that you wish your daughter would meet. If you had a son, he was the person you wanted your son to be like," Chambers said.
Adam Fulford is the athletic director and football coach at Harlem High.
"In 22 years of coaching," he admitted, "I've never had a student, athlete, anyone influence me like that. Jonny was an influence on me more than I ever thought about being an influence on him."
Many students were wearing orange and blue at school on Wednesday because Hartman was a Florida Gators fan. His coaches joke he was the "only Gator fan they actually liked." In fact, he had a running bet with Coach Fulford every year for the Georgia-Florida football game; the losing fan had to win the winning team's colors the next day.
And it's not just coaches who loved Jonny. Students lined up outside the school to pay their respects, too. In front of the school, a large boulder is painted blue and orange with the words, "RIP Jonathan," his athletic numbers and a Bible verse.
Student Joe Diaz says when he first moved here, Hartman was his first friend.
"I came in the summer before school, and I was nervous. I didn't know what was going on. And he just came up and told me, 'Hey, this is what we're doing, explained to me and showed me what to do, helped me become a better football and basketball player,'" he said.
Diaz said that for a while, Hartman was his only friend at school.
Just this past weekend, friends posted pictures of Hartman wearing his graduation robes for the school's baccalaureate service.
Many say Jonny's faith in God defined his life.
"I'll remember him as the guy who's always been everybody's friend, he's always been nice, and he's a strong believer in God," Diaz said.
"I always tell my players that everybody's gonna leave a legacy. And boy, did Jonny ever leave one," adds Fulford, shaking his head.
Jonny's father, Steve, is the pastor at Kiokee Baptist Church in Appling. Steve and Susan Hartman have three children; Jonny was their youngest.
Kiokee church members told News 12 in a statement Wednesday:
"Kiokee Baptist Church is deeply saddened to announce that Jonathan Hartman, son of Pastor Steve and Susan Hartman, has passed away as a result of injuries sustained when his car left the road Tuesday afternoon. We know with unshakable certainty that Johnny is at home with Christ. Even so, this is a very difficult time for the Hartman family, our church and our community. Johnny was a beloved member of our church family; our hearts are broken at his loss, even as we acknowledge and rejoice in his new life in heaven."
The church also tells us Hartman's funeral plans have not been finalized yet but will be arranged with Starling Funeral Home and posted on the church website when they are available.
They are requesting that food, flowers, cards and other expressions of sympathy be delivered to the church.
The Hartmans are asking for privacy during this time.