ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Former First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Dunagan Deal, has died. She was 80 years old.

The news was released Tuesday afternoon after a statement was released by Governor Brian Kemp.

WSB-TV reports that Deal had been battling breast cancer since 2018. The cancer has since metastasized to her brain.

She is perhaps best known during her time as First Lady for her work on improving literacy in Georgia’s schools, visiting and reading to students in 159 of 181 school districts in Georgia. Deal worked as a teacher in Hall County for more than 15 years. The Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University was named in her honor.

She was surrounded by her husband of 56 years, Former Governor Nathan Deal, and her family at home when she passed.

Read Governor Kemp’s full statement below:

Marty, the girls, and I are truly heartbroken to learn of former First Lady Sandra Dunagan Deal’s passing.

The proud daughter of teachers and a two-time graduate of what would become Georgia College & State University, she dedicated her professional life to the same career as her parents – educating the growing minds of Georgia. Her generosity of spirit ensured not only that she was beloved by her students, but also an influential force in their lives, leaving an imprint not just on their minds but also on their hearts. For generations to come, the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy, located on the campus of her alma mater, will continue her good work in bringing the gift of reading to Georgia’s children.

She brought the same dedication and a refined spirit to her work as First Lady. During her time in the Governor’s Mansion, while improving its beauty and preserving its memories for future generations, she also visited schools in all of Georgia’s 159 counties and 181 school districts, some of them multiple times, to read to students and demonstrate her earnest care for them.

That same level of genuine kindness was a fixture in her life, especially where her family was concerned. Mother to four children and grandmother to six, she loved her family dearly, including her parents whom she took in and cared for when they endured poor health until their own passing.

But the greatest joy she had was found in the love of her husband, former Governor Nathan Deal. Both those who had the pleasure of knowing them personally and those that they just met were able to witness a relationship filled with unyielding affection and respect. Through 56 years of marriage, she encouraged and helped the love of her life, and cherished most of all being his wife. With his gentle spirit and wisdom by her side, her soul was full and joyous to the very end.

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. 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.”

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 for the latest on this developing story.