Jonathon Coté was a student at Williamsville North High School, Williamsville, NY from 1999 to 2001. He had moved from Virginia Beach with his parents and older brother before his Junior year at North. People would ask him why his family moved to Buffalo with its crazy weather. His response was, “To be closer to family.” His father had been a Marine for 20 years, almost all of Jon’s life, which meant they moved around often. He had lived in many places including California, North Carolina, and as far away as Japan. That made it difficult to visit his larger extended family from Buffalo, NY, where both his parent’s had roots. He may not have had family close to all the places he lived, but it seemed as though the friends he made along the way became his family.
He was born Jonathon Michael Coté on February 11th, 1983 in Long Beach, CA. He was an adorable kid who loved to explore, discover, and get into trouble. If you asked his family, they would say listening and following directions were never his strengths. Though, over the years, he developed his listening so that when he interacted with people he heard more than what they said literally. This made him very caring, and helped inspire him to be outgoing no matter what social group, ethnicity, or religion you were.
He knew how to make people feel better, encourage them, and help them with anything in the most creative ways. He listened to and followed his heart, and Jon did everything because of his strong feelings about something or someone.
In July of 2001, after his senior year of high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and left for basic training in August. He graduated with his Expert Infantry Badge, and then went to Airborne School at Fort Benning. He served four years with the 82nd Airborne Division, based out of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC. He was invited to attend the Army’s Military Academy at West Point, but declined. While on active duty, he served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. After his military service in 2005, he attended the University of Florida and became a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. After his 2nd semester, he received a job offer to do private security contracting with an Army friend. He accepted the job, packed his belongings into a storage unit in Florida, and flew to Iraq. On November 16th, 2006, Jon and his team were on a mission guarding a military convoy crossing into Iraq when they were ambushed and taken hostage by insurgents. It would be 523 days until his family would learn that no one would ever again see his radiant smile or experience his enthralling personality; his life tragically ended much too early.
Jonathon was an artist to most people who knew him, a beautiful person with his own rhythm. His life was his artwork, and he wished to share it with everyone he met. Anyone who really knew him considered themselves fortunate to have met Jon and cherished the time they shared with him. Jon is a main character in the book Big Boy Rules written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Steve Fainaru. Steve was a Washington Post reporter working on a story about private security contractors while embedded with Jon and his co-workers right before their capture. This website was created to draw support from the local community and keep everyone informed during the 523 days Jon was held captive/missing in Iraq. It now serves as a memorial to Jonathon and to the positive events he has inspired. A tree and plaque, dedicated in Jon’s honor, stand in front of W.N.H.S. near the horseshoe entrance. It is a constant reminder that someone special went to Williamsville North, and hopefully his memory continues to inspire students who attend for years to come.