Rona Ramon, whose husband was killed in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster and who later lost a son in a military plane crash, has died.
Ramon, who was 54, died Monday of pancreatic cancer, according to Israeli media reports.
Her husband, Ilan Ramon, was Israel’s first and only astronaut.
Six years after the Columbia crash, their son, Asaf, who had followed in his father’s footsteps to become an Israeli air force fighter pilot, was killed in a training accident on an F-16. The young officer was laid to rest in Nahalal, aside his father’s kever.
The announcement of the fatal crash was taken hard by the nation, as many saw him carrying on the legacy of his late father.
Ramon was the space shuttle payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of Columbia, in which he and six other crew members were killed in the re-entry accident. At 48, he was the oldest member of the crew.
Ramon is the only foreign recipient of the United States Congressional Space Medal of Honor, which he was awarded posthumously.
In a 2013 interview, Ramon said she was still unable to discuss the loss of her son, but also tried to “look for meaning in life.”
She formed a foundation in memory of her husband and son, and counseled others coping with tragedies.
Officials associated with Ramon Foundation issued the following statement:
With grief and sorrow that cannot be quantified, we are forced to announce the death of Rona Ramon, who died peacefully today in her home – surrounded by her family and close friends.
Rona died after a long illness. Dear Rona was the mother of Tal, Yiftach, Noa and Captain Assaf Ramon, who was a pilot in the Israel Air Force, the widow of Colonel Ilan Ramon – the first Israeli astronaut.
Rona never ceased her efforts to make a positive impact on Israeli society and be meaningful to those around her. She was an inspiring woman who left us knowing that her legacy, her son and her husband would be present in the extensive educational activity to which she was a partner.
Rona was the founder and president of the Ramon Foundation. She initiated and participated in dozens of educational and social projects – in cooperation with government ministries and local authorities. Projects that affected tens of thousands each year.
We already miss her embracing presence.
Details of the date of the funeral ceremony and the shiva will follow.
Prime Minister Netanyahu issued the following statement: My wife, Sara, and I express deep sorrow for Rona Ramon’s death. Rona stood valiantly after the fall of her husband Ilan and her son Asaf, of blessed memory – our beloved pilots. She fought valiantly against cancer, which, to our great sorrow, overwhelmed her today. We will always remember her and her wonderful family. Yehi Zichra Baruch”.
President Reuven Rivlin’s said “Rona Ramon left us, as she lived among us – noble, won, full of faith.
Ilan and Assaf touched the sky, and Verona touched us.
And now beloved Rona, ‘bird angels above you, following your footsteps’.
We will not forget how you built from the destruction, planted meaning in the infinite pain, filled the work with the deficiency that cannot be counted.
We will continue to elongate, the light that you spread to those who do despite the pain, and the creators from the darkness. We will look up above and look for you, three glowing stars.
(AP / YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem/Photo Credit: GPO via קבוצת רוטרניק)