DITMAS PARK — Longtime activist Jessie Streich-Kest, who was killed by a falling tree Monday night in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, was a "sweetheart" who just found her "tailor-made" profession as a teacher this year, friends said.
Streich-Kest was walking her dog with childhood pal Jacob Vogelman on Ditmas Avenue and East 18th Street when a tree fell on them around 7:30 p.m.
“Jacob had just ridden his bike over to her house to hang out with her,” Streich-Kest’s family friend Bob Master said.
“It was one of those completely freak random things. What is there to say? She was a terrific young person who had just started a career that seemed tailor-made for her.”
Now friends and family are mourning their deaths — and struggling to save Streich-Kest’s badly injured pit bull mix, the “love of her life,” who awaits surgery, Master said.
"He's in an animal emergency room on Flatbush [Avenue]," Master said of Max, dear to Streich-Kest, who has crusaded for animal rights.
“She’s an activist,” Master said of Streich-Kest, daughter of Fran Streich and Jon Kest, executive director for the New York Coalition for Change. “She was an outstanding student and a very bright young woman.”
Master said Streich-Kest, who just started teaching at Bushwick School for Social Justice, attended middle school at the Brooklyn Friends School with Vogelman, who went on to attend Goldstein High School near Manhattan Beach and then SUNY Buffalo, the Ditmas Park Corner blog reported.
Vogelman was "a nice guy, very kind and always smiling," high school friend Dominique Manzione told the blog.
Streich-Kest attended Murrow High School in Ditmas Park and then graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She later completed a teaching fellow program through Hunter College.
Recently Streich-Kest helped lead the fight against horse-drawn carriages in Central Park with the group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, as DNAinfo.com reported last year.
"We're just trying to show what's going on," Streich-Kest told tourists in Central Park last year when she protested the poor conditions of horses in the industry that she said lower the animals' life expectancy to only 10 years.
Streich-Kest's passion for fairness carried over to her enthusiasm for teaching, the Bushwick School for Social Justice's former principal Mark Rush said.
“She was a sweetheart and excited about her new job,” Rush recalled of hiring her last year for this fall. “We were thrilled to have landed her as a new teacher. A terrible thing.”