Community rallies around Patrick Hamilton Elementary principal

DOWAGIAC — Dozens of Dowagiac community members huddled together outside of Patrick Hamilton Elementary School Sunday evening to pray for a miracle.

The school’s principal, Heather Nash, is currently in severely critical condition, following complications from a routine knee surgery last week. As of Sunday evening, her health had not improved.

A prayer vigil was hosted in her honor that evening at the elementary school, with Sister Lakes Community Church Pastor Scott Stambaugh leading the service. The service was well attended by Nash’s friends, family and students. Those closest to her said they hosted the vigil to pray for Nash, her family — and hopefully the miracle of her recovery.

“She is loved by her family, her students, everyone she knows,” said Lauren Cornelius, a close friend of Nash’s. “She lights a room when she walks into it. Her presence is always welcome. … We are all here for her. We want her to recover.”

Nash has been principal at Patrick Hamilton Elementary School for more than 10 years, according to Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Paul Hartsig. In that time, Hartsig said that she focused on building bonds with her students and the community, which is what made her such a beloved principal.

“She was a relationship person. You can tell by all the people here tonight,” he said. “That was her character.”

During this time, Hartsig said the school district is rallying around Nash and her family and hoping for her safe recovery.

“We are all very saddened for her and her family,” he said. “Through our grief, we are trying to keep everybody up and focused on her. … Please keep her and her family in your thoughts. We appreciate all the support of everyone here.”

During the service, Pastor Stambaugh said Nash inspired many people and touched the lives of anyone she came in contact with. Though Nash’s prognosis currently is not favorable, Stambaugh said that he would not give up hope for her recovery.

“She changed this town, and she changed this school,” Stambaugh said. “Until the last moment, we will not give up hope that God can perform a miracle.”

Nash’s mother, Sandi Hoger, also spoke at the vigil. She thanked everyone for attending the event and for keeping Nash in their thoughts and prayers.

“Keep on praying,” she said. “Thank you all for loving Heather.”

If the community continues to keep Nash in their thoughts, Cornelius said she has faith that Nash will recover to once again light up a room and teach the children of Dowagiac.

“Keep praying for a miracle,” she said. “All things are possible through God.”

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