LazyTown star Stefán Karl Stefánsson‘s life was cut short on Tuesday after he lost his two-year battle with bile duct cancer.
“Stefán was a highly creative and generous man with extraordinary ideas. For his life to be cut so short was a blow to us all,” his wife, actress Steinunn Ólína, tells PEOPLE.
At the age of 43, the actor, who starred as Robbie Rotten in the Nick Jr. series from 2002-14, died Tuesday morning in Iceland.
“Stefán was diagnosed in September 2016 and survived 23 months, enduring complicated surgeries as well as chemotherapy and radiation. I wish there was a cure or at the very least more hope for those who get diagnosed, and I fully believe that that goal is possible if we raise awareness for the cause,” says Ólína, 49, who is urging people to support the Cholangiocarcinoma foundation.
“Cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer is a rare type of cancer that is most often discovered at the later stages, and sadly in most cases proves to be fatal,” she explains. “With further research we might be able to spot it earlier on, making treatment for this type of cancer more effective.”
Ólína, who wed Stefánsson in 2002 and shared four children with the actor — daughters Briet, 23, Elin, 17, and Julia, 11, and son Thor, 10 — praises her husband as “a highly creative and generous man with extraordinary ideas.”
“Against all odds he made the most of his time after diagnoses, traveled with the family to create memories even if he was very ill, and left me with lots of great projects that I am happy to lead in his absence,” she says.
Among the projects that she will be carrying on his honor is the Stefan Karl Academy and Center for the Performing Arts, which will be launched in Switzerland and hosted by HIAG Immobilien.
“The Academy will be a place where serious young performers will get to hone their skills and grow as artists,” she shares. “To be able to pursue this dream of Stefán with the help of HIAG Immobilien in Switzerland is a true privilege.”
From a young age, both Ólína and Stefánsson knew that they wanted to pursue acting, and she’s encouraging young people, no matter how young, to also chase after their dreams.
She explains, “Stefán and I both knew at an early age that acting was the profession we wanted to pursue. Many young people do know what they want — even if they are very young — and their passion should not be undermined or dismissed. They should get to work in an inspiring environment with exceptional mentors — just as those youths who play an instrument, play sports or dance have the option to.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Ólína confirmed her “beloved” husband had died following his “aggressive” cancer battle.
Although Stefánsson requested that there be no funeral — “His earthly remains will be scattered in secrecy in a distant ocean,” Ólína said — he “had a huge appreciation for his fans and the outpouring of love and support he received through his sickness astonished him and most certainly helped him through these hard times,” she says.
“Stefán was never interested in having his family, friends or fans mourn him. He loved life,” she adds. “Stefán wanted to be remembered for bringing joy to children — which, in his opinion, was the most important audience of all — and the many letters and messages from people that recognized him fondly from their childhood made him realize that his wish had come true.”