Rona Ramon, the wife of the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Columbia space shuttle explosion in 2003, died on Monday at age 54 after a long battle with cancer.

Born in Kiryat Ono in 1964, she served as a paramedic in the Israel Defense Forces’ Paratroopers Brigade. She married Ilan at the age of 22, six months after they met at a birthday party.

She studied physical education and worked as a sports instructor, and was also an activist who advocated for education and the advancement of Israeli youth.

Ramon’s husband was also part in the bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Their son, Capt. Asaf Ramon, an IAF pilot, lost his life in a training accident nine years ago.

Jewish leaders in Israel and abroad expressed their condolences.

“My wife Sara and I express deep sorrow over the passing of Rona Ramon,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Rona stood bravely after the deaths of her husband Ilan and her son Asaf, our beloved pilots, may their memories be for a blessing.”

“She battled cancer with the same bravery, but to our sorrow, succumbed today. We will always remember her and her splendid family,” continued Netanyahu. “May her memory be for a blessing.”

“Rona Ramon has gone from us as she lived among us—noble, clear and full of belief. Ilan and Asaf touched the skies, and Rona touched our hearts,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama. “We will never forget how you built from out of the ruins, how you endowed meaning in infinite pain, how your creativity filled the never-ending void.”

“We will continue to bask in your light, the light you gave ‘for those who do, despite the pain and from those who create, from the darkness,’ and will look up to the skies to search for you, three bright stars,” they added.

Chairman Arthur Stark and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said “we express our deepest sympathy to the Ramon family on the passing of Rona Ramon. … [She] faced devastating tragedies with both fortitude and determination. She never allowed herself to be consumed with grief, but instead worked tirelessly to preserve the legacy of Ilan and Asaf by creating the Ramon Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes personal and social excellence through space, flight, science and technology.

“We pray that her children and family will be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. We pray her memory will be a blessing and a source of inspiration. We all remain eternally grateful to this family for its sacrifice and commitment to the State of Israel,” they said.

“I am heartbroken to learn of the untimely passing of Rona Ramon, an incredible woman who I had the honor to know and from whom I have learned much,” said U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

“Through all her challenges, she led a life of vision, patriotism and strength,” he added. “May her memory be blessed.”