Remembering Josh Hamer

The community has united in search of the best ways to honor the memory of a kind-hearted Patriot who was gone too soon


Caroline Cooney

After Josh Hamer, class of ’19, passed away in a tragic car accident, a locker memorial was set up in front of his locker to give students the ability to write letters dedicated to Josh. The community came together during this grieving period to honor a true Patriot by having a vigil on the baseball field, a memorial service, and a moment of silence during the first baseball home game.

As sophomore Ryan Poholsky walks into school, he notices a crowd of students staring at the large image of sophomore Josh Hamer plastered on the wall. Several students stop and embrace each other with tears in their eyes while others kneel on the ground writing letters dedicated to Josh. Despite his grief, Poholsky can’t help but feel proud of the memorial he and his friends had created to honor their best friend.

“We get to see that smile every day. It kind of makes you happy instead of sad,” Poholsky said.  “Seeing all of the crosses, his smile, and his artwork that he did in Mr. Gaudreau’s class just brought happiness [to everyone],” Poholsky said.

On Thursday, March 2, Josh unexpectedly passed away in a car accident on his way to school. His uncle, who suffered serious injuries from the crash, attempted to turn into a Royal Farms on the corner of Route 22 and Route 155, but the car was hit by oncoming traffic. Josh, who was in the passenger seat, had to be cut from the car and flown to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he later passed away.

In reaction to Josh’s death, the community has come together in their time of grief in a way that has exceeded all possible expectations. Within hours of hearing the news, the baseball team organized a candlelight vigil to remember Josh. Hundreds gathered at 6:30 p.m. on the baseball field to pray for the Hamer family.

The following day, Poholsky, in addition to sophomores Ayo Bodison and Christian Smith, came into school and set up a locker memorial with the help of some faculty members. “A bunch of girls came over to help us out. [Senior] Arri [Stakias] really took a leadership role, Mr. Meyerl helped us get all of the stuff, [and] Mrs. Welsh printed out the big picture, so we had a lot of help from the staff,” Poholsky said.

According to Campus Minister Gary Meyerl, Josh’s locker will also be retired. A medallion bearing his name, the years he lived, and his baseball number will be placed on the doors as a memory of Josh’s time at JC.

In addition, the Campus Ministry Office organized a memorial service on March 6 for the community to gather and pray for the Hamer family. Baseball head coach Darrion Siler as well as junior baseball player Ryan Archibald shared stories about Josh.

According to Archibald, this was a reality check and made him realize Josh was actually gone. “Going into it, I was thinking about what I would say, and then just ended up speaking from the heart about our memories and good times together,” he said.

Police Sergeant Robert Pffar attended the prayer service and led the procession of members of the baseball team and Josh’s advisory. Pffar lost his son Isaac, who was a junior at Patterson Mill High School, to a seizure in October 2016 and came to JC the day Josh passed away to offer his support.

“My heart broke when I heard. I came originally as a member of law enforcement to see if you needed help directing traffic or anything, but it went from that to someone looking to help your community,” Pfarr said.

Pfarr is not the only member of the Patterson Mill community who offered their support. After hearing of Josh’s passing, Patterson Mill junior Megan Hall wanted to find a way to show Patterson Mill’s support.

“We wanted to do more than send flowers because we know how you feel,” Hall said. Hall, along with senior Julianne Gabor and juniors Eric Mangrum, Eryn Lloyd, Dani Appel, Jamie Erkaboni, and Lillian Barnes, created a poster with #88, the number of Josh’s football uniform, and had hundreds of members of the Patterson Mill community sign it.

They came to JC on March 6 to deliver the poster along with a card and flowers. They somberly visited Josh’s memorial, read the notes adorning the locker, and visited the chapel, where they each wrote their own notes to Josh.

Beyond emotional support to the students and faculty members, the JC community has also tried to help support the Hamer family. The Athletic Department and the Campus Ministry Office set up a site where people could donate to help offset the cost of Josh’s funeral, which was held on March 7. “I never knew how much it would cost to bury a child. We hope that this will help offset the cost, but a group of Trappist monks actually donated the casket that he was buried in as well,” Meyerl said.

The additional proceeds from the site will also be used to set up a scholarship in Josh’s honor. “People’s generosity completely exceeded our expectations,” Meyerl said.

According to Meyerl, the details of the scholarship have yet to be finalized. “We plan to give the family some more time to process the situation and grieve before we figure out the details of what kind of student will receive [the scholarship], what it will be earmarked for, that sort of thing,” Meyerl said.

The memorial and scholarship are not the only things being done to honor Josh’s legacy. German teacher Mark Canter, who taught Josh, has established a memorial of his own inside his classroom. On Josh’s seat, Canter tied a black “Patriots Do” flag as a symbol of reverence and remembrance for the student who will no longer sit there.

“I think we forget things quickly, and some things and some people shouldn’t be forgotten. We have to remember what we can do to honor Josh – to appreciate our family and friends and support each other in this time,” Canter said.

The Athletic Department is also searching for the best way to preserve Josh’s legacy on the field that he loved to play on as #25. “We are currently looking for different things to do in memorial out by the baseball field. There will definitely be something,” Athletic Director Steve Teter said.

According to Archibald, the team will continue to honor Josh all season long in several ways. “We are getting a patch on the uniform, a banner on the fence, as well as some other things such as [saying] ‘1,2,3, Hamer’ before we run out on the field,” Archibald said. The team also held a moment of silence for Josh at their first home game.

Josh’s advisory is also looking for the best way to honor their classmate. “My advisory wants to do all sorts of things: plant trees, raise money, they have all sorts of ideas. It’s been kind of rough right now to plan. Our memorial for Josh is still in the planning stages, but it will definitely happen,” Josh’s advisor Larry Hensley said.

While the community has been exploring different options to honor Josh, the community has come together to support each other in a way that has amazed its members. “It was a relief to know how strong the bonds are within the community and to see how strong your community is,” Pfarr said.

Students have come to realize that at the end of the day, support and love are the most important things. “[Josh’s death has] brought everyone together. People who were old friends that [had] separated came back together,” Poholsky said.

The students from Patterson Mill agree and have shown with their actions that the unity between different school communities is stronger than any other factor. “We can be rival schools, but when something happens, we’re here,” Lloyd said.

Pfarr believes this unity and support from the community can help individuals get through this time. “Some of you will truly struggle, and those who aren’t struggling need to be there for those who are. It was somewhat therapeutic to be able to talk about my son and what my family has been through, because you’re allowed to cry and feel emotion, but you’re also allowed to enjoy and love life and have fun,” Pfarr said.

Although we may have lost one of our own, we will never forget #25: the kind-hearted Patriot who was gone too soon.

Caroline Cooney is the Editor in Chief and Grace Mottley is the Assignment Chief for The Patriot and