January 17, 2007
All Saints school founder dies
Father Peter Farmer felt call to priesthood while serving in WWII
By KEVIN HOWE
Herald Staff Writer
Father Peter Farmer, founding headmaster of All Saints Episcopal Day School in Carmel Valley and former chaplain of York School, died Friday in Sebastopol of complications following a stroke he suffered Dec. 28. He was 84.
He was born Aug. 10, 1922, in Berkeley, where he grew up and attended the University of California-Berkeley as a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Father Farmer studied prelaw at Berkeley, intending to follow in his father's footsteps as a lawyer. He left the university in his junior year to serve in the Army in the Pacific during World War II, including two years as a platoon leader in the Palau and Philippine campaigns and for six months in the occupation of Japan.
It was during his service in the Philippines that he felt a call to the priesthood.
After returning to the United States and resuming his studies at Berkeley, Father Farmer met his wife of 58 years, Beva, at a welcome-home party for him and his Army buddies at his family home. They were married in 1948.
Father Farmer attended Virginia Seminary in Alexandria, Va., and was vicar of a mission parish in Novato. He then served as a missionary in Panama from 1956-59.
He and his family returned to live in Pebble Beach, where he served as a priest at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Carmel Valley and All Saints Episcopal Church in Carmel.
In 1961, while serving as vicar to St. Dunstan's and the All Saints mission in Big Sur, he was asked to be headmaster of a new Episcopal school.
All Saints school opened at the Holiday House on Forest Avenue in Pacific Grove that year with classes for kindergarten and first grade. The school later moved to temporary quarters in the old Community Hospital annex at Santa Fe and Pico avenues in Carmel.
The site of the current school in Carmel Valley was acquired in 1964, with building completed in 1965.
Father Farmer recalled in a letter marking the school's 45th anniversary that when the first building was completed, the school field was "two or three acres of fine dust."
He and Val Chaney, sexton of All Saints Church, spent the summer of 1965 finding and laying salvaged pipe for an irrigation system to water grass for a playing field. They scavenged for desks and blackboards from the state Department of Education Surplus Depot in San Leandro.
"He was a tremendous person," said David Keaton of Pebble Beach, who was a student at All Saints in 1970, when it "was essentially just a one-building school with a chapel at the end."
"On rainy days we'd do chapel, and everyone huddled in the hallway. I'll never forget Father Farmer walking down the hall in his black robes, swinging incense. He had a quiet, graceful power about him. You knew he was a really good man, and if there was a problem, he would help you. He had a great spirituality about him."
On other days, chapel was held outside, Keaton said. "On those brilliant, sunny mornings in the valley, we'd be out on the grass, hearing the birds sing, and Father Farmer reading from the Bible, looking up at Saddle Mountain. To a kid it was hard to see the difference from the mountain and the man."
Father Farmer later spent a year at Pendle Hill, a Quaker Retreat in Pennsylvania, and returned to work as chaplain, ethics teacher and soccer coach at York School, where his wife taught art. He later served as a priest at St. Matthias Parish in Seaside.
After retirement, he spent two years at the Bishop's Ranch and lived in Sea Ranch. He presided at services at St. Innocent of Alaska Episcopal Mission in Gualala in Mendocino County.
In addition to his wife, Beva Pilling Farmer, Father Farmer is survived by two sons, Mark Farmer of Sebastopol and Jonathan Peter Farmer of Pacifica; three daughters, Elizabeth Farmer Hudspeth of Chaparral, N.M., Sarah Farmer Williams of Occidental, and Annie Farmer Keresey of Carmel; five grandsons and four granddaughters.
Funeral services will be 1 p.m. Saturday at Church of the Incarnation, 550 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.