In an exclusive statement to PEOPLE, Wendy Madison Bauer thanks fans for "the outpouring of love and support" following Luke Perry's death

Luke Perry‘s fiancée Wendy Madison Bauer is speaking out for the first time since the actor’s sudden death.

“I want to express my gratitude to everyone for the outpouring of love and support,” Bauer says in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE. “The countless, heartwarming stories of Luke’s generosity and kindness have been a great source of solace during this difficult time.”

“The past 11½ years with Luke were the happiest years of my life, and I am grateful to have had that time with him,” she continues. “I also want to thank his children, family, and friends for their love and support. We have found comfort in one another and in the knowledge that our lives were touched by an extraordinary man. He will be dearly missed.”

Perry and Bauer, 44, kept their relationship largely private. While it’s unclear when they got engaged, the couple walked the red carpet at the GLAAD Media Awards together in April 2017.

In 2003, Perry amicably split from wife Rachel “Minnie” Sharp, mother of his 21-year-old son Jack and 18-year-old daughter Sophie.

Wendy Madison Bauer and Luke Perry
| Credit: Vivien Killilea/Getty

Sharing her memories of the actor with PEOPLE earlier this week, longtime friend Patricia Arquette said Bauer was Perry’s perfect match.

“His joy was being a father to kids, Jack and Sophie, and he had found true joy and happiness with his great love, Madison,” said Arquette, 50. “It’s a true loss to all of us who knew him and to those who didn’t.”

Perry’s rep announced the Beverly Hills, 90210 star’s passing in a statement, confirming he was “surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancée Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, step-father Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, and other close family and friends.”

Both of Perry’s children have also spoken out about their father’s sudden death.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Sophie shared a photo of herself and the late Riverdale star.

“A lot has happened in this past week for me,” she captioned her Instagram. “Everything is happening so fast. I made it back from Malawi just in time to be here with my family, And in the past 24 hours I have received an overwhelming amount of love and support.”

“I cannot individually respond to the hundreds of beautiful and heartfelt messages, but I see them, and appreciate you all for sending positivity to my family and I,” she continued. “I’m not really sure what to say or do in this situation, it’s something you aren’t ever given a lesson on how to handle, especially when it’s all happening in the public eye. So [bear] with me and know that I am grateful for all the love. Just, being grateful quietly.”

Jack also posted a tribute on Wednesday.

“He was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he was always Dad,” Jack — who is also a wrestler — began his touching Instagram post.

“He loved and supported me in everything, and inspired me to be the best that I could possibly be,” he continued. “I’ve learned so much from you, and my heart is broken thinking about everything you won’t be here for. I’ll miss you every day that I walk this earth.”

Jack ended his post by saying: “I’ll do whatever I can to carry on your legacy and make you proud. I love you Dad.”

In lieu of flowers, the Perry family asks that donations be made to Fight Colorectal Cancer and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.