Former Georgia first lady Sandra Deal died Tuesday at the age of 80 after losing her long battle with cancer.
Deal died in her home with her husband, former Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, and their family by her side.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and had a tumor removed. Deal underwent chemotherapy for several months, but the cancer metastasized to her brain.
"We have lost a wife, mother and grandmother who loved us unconditionally, as we did her. She blessed us, taught us and enriched our lives," the Deal family said in a statement. "Our family knew this day was coming, and we are grateful that it gave us the opportunity to enjoy as much time with her as we could in her final months. We are grieving but celebrate her life and the example she set."
"A woman of unshakeable Christian faith, she did not fear death because she had no doubts about her ultimate destination and knew that we’d all come together again one day," the statement continued. "Beyond our family, she touched thousands and thousands of lives as a teacher and as First Lady of Georgia, when she read to students in every county and every school district in the state."
The Deal family added that Deal was the same in private as she was in public.
"She gave to others selflessly, unfailingly and unceasingly. We will miss her but count ourselves lucky that we were hers. She leaves a world that’s better because she was here," the family said.
Deal, who grew up in a house of educators, graduated from high school in Gainesville, Georgia, and attended Georgia College and State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education. She would receive her master’s degree five years later.
She taught language arts in Hall County for more than 15 years and continued to advocate for education as first lady, visiting more than 900 classrooms in all 181 Georgia public school districts to read to students and promote literacy, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.
Gov. Brian Kemp said he and his family are "truly heartbroken" to learn of Deal's passing.
"As she will for so many Georgians, Mrs. Deal will remain steadfast in our hearts and memories, just as her family will be in our prayers during this time of mourning," Kemp wrote in a statement. "As she goes to await them in a greater world, we ask all Georgians to join us in celebrating her life and contributions to a thankful state."
Deal leaves behind her husband and four children.