Rona Ramon
Rona RamonPhoto by Marc Israel Sellem /POOL /FLASH90

Israeli leaders and politicians paid tribute to Rona Ramon, the widow of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who passed away Monday after battling a serious illness. She was 54.

Ilan Ramon was killed when the Space Shuttle Columbia burned up on reentry into the atmosphere in 2003. Their son, Capt. Asaf Ramon, was an Air Force pilot like his father, and was killed in an aviation training accident in 2009.

After Asaf's death, she set up the Ramon Foundation. She also began giving lectures about her life and spoke about coping mechanisms.

On Israel’s 68th Independence Dayת two years ago, she lit a torch at the annual torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised Ramon's resilience in picking up after losing her husband and son in tragic accidents. "My wife, Sara and I express deep sorrow for the passing of Rona Ramon, who stood up heroically after the fall of her husband, Ilan, and her son, Asaf, of blessed memory - our beloved pilots - and she fought cancer with the same heroism, which unfortunately overcame her today. May her memory be a blessing."

"Rona Ramon left us as she lived among us - noble, pure, full of faith," said President Reuven Rivlin.

"Ilan and Assaf touched the sky. We'll continue to increase the light you have spread in honor of those who act despite the pain, and who create from the darkness. We'll raise our eyes from the depths of the darkness to the heavens and look for you, three glowing stars."

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein stated: "Her husband, astronaut Ilan Ramon, stormed into the sky before her eyes, and her son, the outstanding pilot Assaf Ramon, dived to his death in a training accident. A normal person would retreat into his grief, give in. An ordinary person would give in to the endless pain, but not Rona."

"With nobility she managed to emerge from the storm and demonstrate to us all what courage is, what faith is, what is choosing life," Edelstein wrote.

Education Minister Naftali stated: "It is a deep sadness for the people of Israel to learn of the death of the wonderful Rona Ramon. How much love, Zionism, dedication, and contribution there is in this woman and in this family."

"Even though she lost two of her best friends, astronaut Ilan Ramon and their son Asaf, an outstanding pilot, she chose life and dedicated her life to work for society," Bennett said.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel called Ramon a "woman of valor, who worked for the benefit of the entire Israeli society and left behind a legacy of solidarity and nobility."