ROXBURY, NJ - Karen Lunardoni, the former principal of Jefferson Elementary School who was described as a beloved educator who knew the value of adding fun to teaching, died Monday. She was planning to retire next month.

Lunardoni’s death was announced in a letter to parents and guardians sent by Acting Jefferson School Principal Melissa Cosgrove, who expressed “profound sadness” about the loss of her colleague.

“Mrs. Lunardoni put her heart and soul into providing the best for our students and community,” wrote Cosgrove. “She has been the source of many memories that have made Jefferson School an amazing and unique place to learn.”

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Lunardoni was hired by Roxbury schools in 1999, coming to the district from Belvidere in Warren County, where she taught for 10 years, said Cosgrove. Lunardoni became the district’s supervisor of applied sciences in 2001 and was then named “the beloved principal” of Jefferson School in 2005, according to Cosgrove. “She was due to retire in September and looked forward to spending time with her grandchildren, the apples of her eye,” Cosgrove noted.

During her career, Lunardoni not only pushed pupils to get good grades but also tried to let them enjoy their school days, said Cosgrove. “We will all remember how she dressed up for Halloween parades, taught kindness through bucket filling, and of course those outstanding birthday lunches,” she wrote. “She had a special place in her heart for every one of her students.”

Lunardoni “remains a cherished member of our community and we will continue to fondly remember her contributions to the educational field,” Cosgrove added. “Please continue to keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Funeral arrangements for Lunardoni have yet to be announced.