By Paula Walter
The weight of sadness can be felt in the Johnson County Courthouse. One of their own, Jerry Farmer, known to all as “Farmer,” passed away suddenly on Friday, September 29, while he was on duty at the courthouse. Farmer was 67 years old. Despite attempts to revive him, he passed away from a heart attack.
Farmer leaves behind not only his family, but also those he worked with at the courthouse. Even though it’s been a few weeks, their grief is still raw.
At the time of his death, Farmer was in his 46th year of law enforcement. He not only served as a deputy sheriff in Johnson County, but also previously served in Watauga and Yancey counties.
Tom Wilson, the first woman bailiff at the Johnson County Courthouse, has worked for four years at the courthouse. Wilson and Farmer worked together. “He was very loving,” Wilson said. “He never had a hard word to say about anyone. He would go out of his way to help people, even inmates. He was a good Christian man.” According to Wilson, his heart attack was sudden. “He looked as healthy as a bear,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“He was a loving and caring person,” Wilson said. “He loved everyone in the courthouse and there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for you. He was the kind of person you would think would live on and on. God took him for a reason. He’s there with his Mama and other family. We will see him again. He just paved the way for the rest of us. He was my best friend in the whole world.”
Sherrie Fenner, Johnson County Clerk and Master, worked with Farmer approximately nine years. Farmer was often in the courtroom as he was one of the county’s bailiffs. “He liked everything in place and nothing out of place,” Fenner recalled. “He did everything the right way. The worst days he could turn into a good day.” Farmer was one of those special people who had a positive impact on all he met. “Farmer always stood out to people by his happy character, his big heart and his clever grin,” said Fenner. “He was a dear friend and co-worker to me who was always there to help in any way that he could. He left this world doing what he loved to do. The hallways and courtrooms of this courthouse will never be the same without him.”
Farmer’s impact went beyond the courthouse. According to Sheriff Mike Reece, Farmer worked for the sheriff’s department two different times. After working for a while in North Carolina, Farmer contacted Reece. “I want to come back home,” Reece recalled Farmer saying. “Farmer is not someone you meet every day,” Reece said. “He was more than just an employee. He was a friend. I know once I told him something, I knew it was done. I knew he was going to take care of everything.”
According to Reece, he received compliments from different judges that Johnson County always had the best bailiffs. “I always received compliments on Farmer,” he stated. “Farmer was a good person, all the way around. He never complained, never said he was sick. I never knew him to complain.”
According to Reece, anytime anyone needed help, Farmer was there. “He treated everyone the same way,” Reece said. “He was just a unique person, Farmer was. Day or night, I could pick the phone up and he’d be there. There was nothing he didn’t do I asked him. We’re really going to miss him, not only at his job, but having Farmer as a friend.”
During his career, Farmer received numerous awards and was inducted into the American Police Hall of Fame for Distinguished Achievement in public service. He worked as a Deputy Sheriff in Watauga County, and also served as Deputy Sheriff in Yancey County, North Carolina. He also served as police officer in Watauga Medical Center and as chief of security at Chetola Resort. Farmer was buried with military honors. The somber moments of the final call and bag pipes echoed through the air as friends and family gathered to see their Farmer laid to rest.
Farmer leaves behind his wife, Linda, their daughter and two sons, along with a brother and sisters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind a community of people who were blessed to call him friend.