DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac extended community was in mourning Thursday as news came that Patrick Hamilton Elementary School Principal Heather Nash has died.

Nash had been the principal at the Dowagiac school for more than 10 years and a teacher in the Dowagiac schools prior to that. Nash, formerly Heather Hoger, was a Dowagiac native and a 1991 graduate of Dowagiac Union High School.

Deputy Superintendent Dawn Connor posted the news online Thursday that Nash had died earlier that morning. According to other media reports, Nash had undergone routine knee surgery earlier this month but had suffered complications. Community members had held a prayer vigil for her recovery on Sunday.

The post on the school district’s website Thursday was addressed to “Dearest Dowagiac School Family.” It read: “It is with much sadness that we inform you of the death of our beloved principal at Patrick Hamilton, Heather Nash, who passed away this morning. Our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time. This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for the entire school district.”

The posting noted that counselors were available at the school Thursday afternoon to talk with students and staff members and to help them cope with the tragic news.

The Patrick Hamilton Facebook page was filled late Thursday with comments from people remembering Nash and sending their thoughts and prayers to her family.

Karen Bankowski Thornburg wrote that “her family, staff, and students will carry on her legacy.”

Linda Culver wrote that “Heather was an amazing person, who met challenges with wit and grace. Her laughter and energy were the heart of the school.”

“Continuing without her will be an impossible task for the staff at Pat Ham,” Culver wrote. “However, the staff at Pat Ham is up for the challenge. More like family than co-workers, this loving staff will show the compassion and strength needed for each other and the students who depend on them.”