Students at Harlem High School mourned the loss of a classmate Wednesday with an after-school vigil around the school’s spirit rock.
Painted on the rock in blue and orange was “RIP Johnny,” referring to Harlem High senior Jonathan Hartman.
Hartman, 18, died Tuesday evening following a single-car crash in Appling. Authorities say he ran off Scotts Ferry Road, over-corrected, then flipped a Toyota 4Runner several times before hitting a tree.
The wreck occurred about 3 p.m., and Columbia County Deputy Coroner Bonnie Holloway said Hartman died about seven hours later at Medical College of Georgia Hospital from head trauma.
Knowing Hartman to be an avid fan of the University of Florida, Harlem students wore the Gator colors to school last week in remembrance of their friend. Columbia County school system Director of High School Learning Rose Carraway said Thursday that many Harlem High seniors intend to wear blue and orange tassels on their caps in memory of Hartman at graduation ceremonies on Saturday.
Hartman’s death came just 11 days before his high school graduation. Several of his classmates wrote notes to Hartman on a large orange banner in the school’s commons area. They intend to take the banner with them to their graduation ceremony.
Among the first to sign the banner was Harlem High basketball and soccer star Jade Cotton.
The 18-year-old said she had known Hartman since the seventh grade, but got to be really good friends with him this school year as they sat next to each other in a class.
“When I first heard about it (the crash), I was really worried,” Cotton said as she fought tears. “Later, when I found out he died, I just broke down and cried.
“He had just raised the money to go on our senior trip to Panama City (Fla.). We were all so happy he was going to go.”
Harlem basketball coach Kim Chambers said Hartman inspired his own son to become a Gator fan.
“He was just such a great young man,” said Chambers, who wore an orange T-shirt and a khaki cap bearing the Gators logo. “He was the kind of kid you’d want your daughter to date.”
Though he played basketball, football and tennis, Chambers described Hartman as an athlete with average skills. What made Hartman special, Chambers added, was his willingness to give all he had every time he stepped onto the court.
“That’s why I gave him the Coach’s Award (this past season),” Chambers said. “He always gave it his all. He didn’t seek out any glory. He just did what he could to help his team win.”
Chambers’ team signed a basketball Wednesday in honor of Hartman and later intends to give it to his parents, which include Kiokee Baptist Church Rev. Steve Hartman.
Hartman’s funeral service, officiated by the Rev. Wes Gardner, was held Saturday at Kiokee Baptist Church.
“God got a new angel (Tuesday),” Chambers said of the teen he described as young man of strong Christian faith.
“All the kids loved him, but so did all his teachers,” said Harlem High Principal Dietmar Perez. “He was a fabulous young man.”
A popular student, Hartman was named Harlem High’s Prom King last month.
“He was so good to everybody. I don’t think there was anybody who didn’t like him,” said Harlem High safety officer Mike Leverett. “Even the bad kids liked him.”