Gardner was true Westie; Community reels at loss
The City of West Haven and, more particularly, West Haven High School, and most especially her family lost someone special last week. Pamela Bellmore Gardner passed away at 49 after a long battle with cancer. The longtime principal of the local high school was known for her personal relationships with students and faculty at the McDonough Plaza institution.
A 1987 graduate of West Haven High, Pam Bellmore was one of those students ticketed for excellence in whatever field she attempted. Her senior year was a patchwork of various honors and awards. She was going to be a person to be reckoned with in adult life.
After graduating college, she entered the education field and became an outstanding member of the teaching profession, and later entered administration. She came to WHHS after a stint in Stratford’s Bunnell High School as an assistant, and there were many who hoped she would become a remarkable leader in her alma mater.
She was a role model for what can be accomplished as a West Haven High School graduate. She was the living example of the results of hard work and achievement. Pam Gardner embodied the attributes she and her staff tried to inculcate in their students every day.
She was also a role model in attempting to balance the demands of a professional life and raising a family. Despite all the modern day attempts at leveling the roles between mothers and fathers, motherhood has with it a bond and responsibility that nothing can match. She did her job at the high school, and still had to shuttle her children to school, sports and other activities.
Her mark on the school is something for later years. Some questioned some of the decisions she made over the years, but that comes with the territory of being the principal. There will be a time to reflect on that, now is the time to mourn, and to remember the woman who tried to do what she thought was best for the students, faculty and staff at WHHS.
She was, indeed, a Westie. She bled Westie blue, and she had a pride in becoming the principal of her alma mater. She was always trying to show the positive side of the educational experience, dwelling on what was right with the students and programs. The annual Homecoming Festival, known known as the Fall Festival, was a product of her goal to show her kids at their most creative.
Over the last few years, Gardner was diagnosed with cancer, and became a role model for graciousness in the face of adversity – the worst kind of adversity – attempting to fight off a terrible disease.
The tenacity she showed as a student, teacher and, later, administrator, came out in spades as she was fighting this dread disease. Always positive, and always attempting to work through it, she taught her family, her students and her community lessons in resolve and gracious living.
Ultimately, cancer took its toll, and Pam Gardner could no longer fight. But this 49-year-old Westie was a teacher to the end. She taught all and sundry how to live well, and, finally, how to pass into eternity after giving all she had to give.