West Haven High School Principal Pamela Bellmore Gardner has died of cancer, Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro confirmed Thursday, Oct 25.

Gardner, who had been hospitalized for the past few weeks, had been battling a rare form of cancer, neuroendocrine tumors found in her stomach, since being diagnosed in June 2017 .

“I think from the day” it was diagnosed, “it was an uphill battle,” Cavallaro said.

“I can’t imagine what it’s been like at West Haven High School for the the last year and a half. But that staff, the students, everyone — they rallied around her,” Cavallaro said.

“The staff really got together” to keep the school moving forward, he said.

“She’s a big part of this community,” said Cavallaro, who has known Gardner for many years and taught with her mother, Patricia Bellmore, at what was then Carrigan Middle School.

“She believed in our school district, she believed in the city,” Cavallaro said. “She loved the kids. She always did things to showcase the kids. To her, that was the most important thing.”

Upon returning to West Haven High School as principal in 2009, Gardner said, “It feels like coming home. It just feels good.”

Bellmore spent nine years as principal at West Haven High after previously being named “Teacher of the Year” three times in other communities — at Fitch High School in Groton in 1996, at Old Saybrook High School in 1998 and at Guilford High School in 2000.

In 2001, she won the National Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation and in 2002 earned a Fulbright Fellowship for studies of China’s changing economy.

She held a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Connecticut, a master’s degree in education from Sacred Heart University and a sixth-year in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut State University.

Gardner, a lifelong Westie and 1987 graduate of West Haven High School, is survived by her husband, Scott Gardner, her daughter, Mackenzie, her son, Kevin, her parents, Harold and Patricia Bellmore and her brother, James Bellmore, among others.

According to Cavallaro, Gardner’s wake will be Sunday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the West Haven Funeral Home, 662 Savin Ave. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Louis Church, 89 Bull Hill Lane.