Former 60th District Court Judge Edward "Cam" Farmer passes away at 96

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Former 60th District Court Judge, Edward C. “Cam” Farmer, Jr., passed away on Aug. 16, 2015, at the age of 96.

Representatives of the Muskegon legal community, the City of Muskegon, and surrounding area came together Wednesday, August 20, to pay tribute to and honor the life of Farmer, known by many as the Honorable Edward C. Farmer Jr., was born in Muskegon to Edward and Beatrice Farmer on Aug. 20, 1918. He was a U.S. Marines veteran who served during WWII, where he was the last survivor of the pivotal battles of Guadalcanal in September 1942. He received three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and Silver Star, among other honors, for his service. He retired in 1994 after serving as a trial attorney for 18 years and a District Court Judge for 24 years. The McLaughlin School, Muskegon High School and St. John's Military Academy alumnus attended Dartmouth College and Northwestern University School of Law.

Judge Farmer came by his love of the law naturally.  His father, Edward C. Farmer, Sr., attended public school in Chicago, Illinois and graduated from Muskegon High School and University of Michigan Law School, LL.B., in 1911.  Farmer Sr. began the practice of law in Muskegon, and in 1912 became U.S. Commander of the Western District of Michigan, and city attorney of Muskegon in 1920.  Cam Farmer’s father was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army for service in the World War.  He was stationed at Camp Upton, Long Island, and served until 1918 in the Army Service Corps, which was composed of 100 lawyers and was formed to protect the rights of property owners.  His father was a Democrat, and a member of the following: Muskegon County Club; Century Club; American Legion; White Lake Yacht Club; Citizens Historical Association (Indianapolis, Indiana); and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 

The year 1918 is often remembered as the year that WWI came to an end. Following victory for America and our allies, we were recognized as a world leader for the first time and poised for greatness. With the eyes of the world focused on our shores, we led the way in innovation that transformed the way we lived our everyday lives. This same year was a year to remember in the lives of the Farmer family as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the heat of the summer held the city of Muskegon firmly in its grip . The big day finally arrived on August 20 when they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Edward C. Jr. As the oldest of four children, he was raised in the family home on Clinton Street alongside his sister, Judy, and his brothers, Samuel and Jack.

Always known as “Cam,” Edward was a bustle of activity right from the start. He was a Boy Scout and remained active with the program for the rest of his life, too. Willing to work hard, Farmer sold magazines door to door to earn spending money as a teen. He enjoyed being at the family cottage off Scenic Drive on Lake Michigan where they slid down the dunes on old rugs. Farmer also did a lot of sailing out of the White Lake Yacht Club. As a student he attended McLaughlin Elementary School, and also spent a couple years at St. John’s Military Academy in Wisconsin before returning to graduate from Muskegon High School. From there he went on to Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, initially studying architecture and other subjects, but eventually leaning towards law. It was also while in college that he developed a love for snow skiing.

As a young man, Farmer signed up with the United States Marine Corps. He was still in college and did his officer training during the summers. After graduating in 1941, he started his active duty as an officer. These were the days of WWII, and in 1942 he was sent to the Pacific region where he fought in the battle for Guadalcanal. The fighting was very intense, and Farmer was wounded in battle and sent to New Zealand to recover. He then served in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska until the end of the war in 1945. In recognition of his service, Farmer received three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, a Presidential Unit Citation, and a Combat Star. At the time of his death, he was thought to be one of the last surviving soldiers from that battle.

Farmer returned home in 1946 and enrolled in law school at Northwestern University. After graduating, he returned to Muskegon where he worked at a local law firm for a time before starting his own practice. He then worked as a trial lawyer for 18 years before running for District Court Judge. At the time of his retirement in 1994, he had served as a well-respected judge for 24 years.

While he was busy establishing his career, Farmer’s personal life became very exciting in 1955 when he met the young woman of his dreams, Kim Harrington, while he was on a skiing vacation in Aspen, Colorado. She was 12 years his junior and from Chicago. Farmer made quite an impression as he took her for a dog sled ride on one of their first dates. It wasn’t long before the couple found themselves deeply in love. They married on September 24, 1955.

They lived in a few different places before purchasing a large home on Jefferson Avenue near Muskegon High School. Together they welcomed four children into their hearts and home including Betsy in 1957, Alice in 1958, Michael in 1961, and David in 1963. Farmer deeply loved his family and treasured every minute they had to spend together. He remained active in the Boy Scouts, and enjoyed being a part of it with his sons, too. As a family the Farmers loved going out on their sailboats, and Farmer taught his children all to sail. There were also winter ski trips to Caberfae and summer trips to Colorado and New Mexico. Farmer had his own artistic flair and liked to draw and carve little figures out of soap for the children.

The Farmers had a large group of friends and were active within the community including as members of the Muskegon Country Club where Farmer golfed regularly. As a member of the Boy Scouts of America, he received the Silver Beaver Award. In addition, he was a member of the D.A.V., History Club, and the Muskegon Yacht Club. He and his wife loved traveling and made trips all over the world to places such as the Amazon River, Antarctica, India, London, Scotland, Asia, and Singapore. At times they even organized and hosted group trips to see Broadway shows in New York City. Once their children were grown and all through college, they moved from their big house to a home in Glenside where they remained until last year when they moved into assisted living. Farmer’s mind was very sharp into his nineties, and other attorneys still sought his opinions as recently as last year. Although he was very wise, he was from the old school, never learning to use a computer or the ATM.

With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Judge Farmer lived a life of purpose while holding his loved ones near. He was a hard-working, honorable, kind-hearted and generous man who served others both abroad. He made a significant impact in the community he called home throughout his entire life. A devoted family man, Farmer deeply loved his wife and children, and there was nothing that thrilled him more than witnessing his family grow to include his children and grandson. He was the sort of man everyone seemed to know. Although he will be deeply missed, Farmer leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that will never be forgotten.

Memorial contributions may be donated to the Boy Scouts of America or to the Muskegon County Council of Veterans.

Portions of the story of Edward C. Farmer Jr. provided courtesy of Clock Life Story Funeral Home.

Information about Edward C. Farmer, Sr. was obtained by internet research.