Rona Ramon, widow of Ilan, dies of cancer at 54

Rona Ramon had a very special relationship with Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres. At the request of her family, her body will lie in state at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

Rona Ramon  (photo credit: RAMON FOUNDATION)
Rona Ramon
(photo credit: RAMON FOUNDATION)
Rona Ramon, widow of Israel’s pioneer astronaut Ilan Ramon and the mother of IAF pilot Assaf Ramon, who at age 21 was killed in a training accident, succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Monday. She was 54.
She and her late husband had always told their four children – Assaf, Tal, Yiftah and Noa – to follow their dreams. Since he was a small boy, Assaf had wanted to be a pilot like his father, who was killed in 2003 in the fatal Columbia space shuttle mission, when the spacecraft disintegrated over Texas as it was re-entering Earth.
When Assaf wanted to join the IAF she could not deny it to him, she told The Jerusalem Post in May 2016, because she had always told her own children and other children to follow their dreams. In fact, three of her children served in the IAF.
Following Assaf’s death in 2009, she began to read his diary and found an entry stating how proud he and his siblings were that their parents had educated them to know that each should have a dream and should aspire to make that dream a reality.
It was then that she reached the decision that she had to do something meaningful and substantial to preserve both the memories and the values of her husband and son.
The upshot was the establishment of the Ramon Foundation, which inspires and motivates young Israelis to strive for academic excellence and encourages them to dream and to pursue their dream.
In addition, due to her close connection with what is known as “the NASA family,” she became the ambassador for Israeli space research and was able to bring NASA’s top astronauts to Israel to participate in annual space and science conferences.
Despite the pain of her loss, she gave priority to the needs of the country and the future of its young citizens.
President Reuven Rivlin honored her memory by saying that: “Ilan and Assaf touched the heavens; Rona touched our hearts.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in expressing the deep sorrow that he and his wife, Sara, felt at Rona Ramon’s passing, stated: “Rona withstood heroically the death of her husband and her son Assaf, of blessed memory. She fought cancer with the same heroism. We will always remember her and her amazing family.”
Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis said that: “We lost a heroic and noble woman. During our three-year-long acquaintance, I got a close-up view of the spectacular work she did in honoring the memory of her late husband, Ilan Ramon, and her son Assaf of blessed memory,” he said.
“An average person would have withdrawn into his sorrow and given up,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, “but not Rona. With great nobility she was able to rise from the tempest and show us all the meaning of courage, faith, and choosing life,” he said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that her passing laid a shroud of “deep sorrow on the people of Israel. She chose life and devoted her life to doing for others in society,” he said.
Culture Minister Miri Regev spoke of how she met Rona during the Independence Day ceremony honoring the 68th anniversary of the State of Israel.
“By creating the Ramon Foundation to honor her loved ones,” said Regev, “she gave present and future generations the legacy of striving for excellence that was so special to them.”
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz spoke about the commemoration ceremony at the civilian airport in Ramat Timna near Eilat, named after Ilan and Assaf Ramon earlier this year.
“When the airport soon opens, Rona will be there with us [in spirit],” he said.
Zionist Union leader Tzipi Livni called Ramon “an unusual personality that touched all of us in the deepest way. She will be remembered forever, with her and our heroes Ilan and Assaf in the heart of the nation.”
Rona Ramon had a very special relationship with Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres. At the request of her family, her body will lie in state at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, 132 Kedem Street in Tel Aviv-Jaffa on Wednesday, December 19, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. – so that members of the public can pay their respects to this great woman who turned personal tragedy into a positive force for the benefit of the nation.
The funeral service in the presence of family and close friends will take place at 4 p.m. at the Peres Center.