Dana Reeve, widow of Superman star Christopher Reeve, and tireless crusader for spinal-cord injury research, has died of lung cancer. She was 44.

Reeve died Monday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical Center in New York, said Kathy Lewis, president of the Christopher Reeve Foundation.

"On behalf of the entire board of directors and staff of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, we are extremely saddened by the death of Dana Reeve, whose grace and courage under the most difficult of circumstances was a source of comfort and inspiration to all of us," Lewis said in a statement.

"Dana will always be remembered for her passion, strength and ceaseless courage that became her hallmark."

Reeve, who gave up a large part of her career as a singer and actress to care for her husband after the 1995 horseback riding accident that left him almost completely paralyzed, left countless individuals impressed by her unwavering devotion.

"She showed us all the true power of love," close friend Jane Seymour said in a statement. "[She was] an unflinching optimist, who never let anything get her down, and if she did she never showed us."

Robin Williams, a longtime friend who gave the eulogy at Christopher Reeve's funeral, also expressed his admiration for Reeve's strength and dedication.

"The brightest light has gone out," Williams and his wife, Marsha, said in a joint statement. "We will forever celebrate her loving spirit."

After Christopher Reeve's death on Oct. 14, 2004, Reeve took over his position as chair of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which funds research into spinal-cord paralysis cures.

In August, just 10 months after losing her husband, she revealed that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, though she was not a smoker. However, she remained optimistic about her chances for recovery and often invoked her late husband's name as her role model in her struggle.

Reeve made one of her final public appearances at a fund-raising event for the foundation in November and said she was responding well to treatment and that her tumor was shrinking.

"I'm beating the odds and defying every statistic the doctors can throw at me," Reeve said then. "My prognosis looks better all the time."

She said she kept her spirits up by remembering the man she spent years caring for.

"I was married to a man who never gave up," she said. "He taught me so much about courage and about going forward. He really was in this with me."

By his own account, Christopher Reeve admired many of the same qualities in the woman he credited with giving him the will to go on after the devastating riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe on his own.

In his 1998 autobiography, Still Me, the actor wrote that in the days immediately following his accident, both he and his mother were in favor of disconnecting the life-support machines and allowing him to die, but that his wife changed his mind.

"Dana came into the room...I mouthed my first lucid words to her: 'Maybe we should let me go,'" Reeve recalled in the memoir. "She said, 'I'm only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do because this is your life. And your decision. But I want you to know that I'll be with you for the long haul, no matter what.'"

"Then she added the words that saved my life: 'You're still you. And I love you.'"

In a romance straight out of a script, the couple met while both were taking part in summer stock at the Williamstown Theater Festival in western Massachusetts. They married in 1992, and had a son, Will, now 13.

In addition to her son, Reeve is survived by her father and two sisters, as well as her stepchildren, Matthew and Alexandra, her husband's children from a previous relationship.

Funeral arrangements had not yet been announced.

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