“Her courage was incredible and her determination to fight this terrible illness was remarkable,” Simon Cowell said of his season 16 Golden Buzzer-winning singer
Simon Cowell is paying tribute to one of his favorite contestants on America’s Got Talent.
On Tuesday, one day after Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski’s death was made public, Cowell honored the late singer on social media. She was 31.
“Heart breaking news to hear about Nightbirde, she was an extraordinary person, so brave, so talented,” the AGT judge and executive producer, 62, wrote along with a photo of her smiling during her Golden Buzzer-winning audition in season 16.
“She made a huge impact on AGT and the world, her courage was incredible and her determination to fight this terrible illness was remarkable. Rest in peace, Jane. I am sending my love to her family. Simon,” he concluded.
On Monday, the Marczewski family released a statement about the songwriter’s life and legacy.
“It is with the deepest heartache that we confirm that after a four-year battle with cancer, Jane Marczewski, known to many of you as Nightbirde, passed away on February 19th 2022. We, her family, are devastated by her passing and unimaginable loss,” the Marczewski family said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“Many remember her from America’s Got Talent, where she performed her song ‘It’s OK’ and inspired millions of people around the globe with her messages of faith and never giving up. Those who knew her, enjoyed her larger-than-life personality and sense of humor,” the family’s statement continued.
“She had a witty joke for every occasion — even if the joke was on her. Her lasting legacy will be the gift of hope she gave to so many through her music and the strength she found in Jesus. We thank everyone for their messages of love and support,” they concluded.
The NBC franchise also honored the Zanesville, Ohio native on Monday. “Your voice, your story, and your message touched millions. Nightbirde will always be a member of the AGT family. Rest In Peace, Jane,” AGT shared on Instagram and Twitter.
“We love you. Rest in peace @nightbirde,” judge Heidi Klum shared on her Instagram Story.
“@_nightbirde was such a bright inspirational light in all our lives. We must continue to live and learn from her words and lyrics. As much as I feel horribly about her passing I feel lucky to have met, heard and known her,” judge Howie Mandel tweeted.
“Rest in power @_nightbirde. We lost a shining star today you were a true inspiration to all. Sending so much love to all of Nightbirde’s family and friends. She was something special,” judge Sofia Vergara shared on her Instagram Story.
“We are saddened to learn about @_nightbirde’s Passing. Our Condolences goes to her Closest Family & Friends in such of This difficult time. We Love you, Nightbirde,” host Terry Crews shared on Instagram.
Also on Monday, Crews, 53, told PEOPLE about “one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever witnessed in my life” during Nightbirde’s season 16 audition.
“I have to tell you the thing she said on stage which was, ‘You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy,’ ” he said. “The obstacles which she was facing in the middle of all of this and she just showed nothing but happiness, nothing but gratefulness for every moment — it just really reminded me just what life is all about and the fact that she passed, it made me just go, ‘My God. She blessed the Earth like an angel would,’ and that’s all I can say.”
The AGT: Extreme host added, “We love her. The AGT family is truly a family and we were following her throughout this whole thing and she’s in heaven and that’s all I can say.”
At the time of her audition, which was filmed last summer, Nightbirde told audiences that she “had some cancer in my lungs, spine and my liver,” adding, “I have a two percent chance of survival, but two percent is not zero percent. Two percent is something, and I wish people knew how amazing it is.”
She received Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer that season, vaulting her straight to the live shows. Her story and original song “It’s Okay” resonated with viewers, and earned her millions of views on YouTube, as well as streams on music platforms. However, she withdrew from the show weeks later, announcing on social media at the time that she was no longer able to compete due to her health.