1977 College graduate Jon Kest, a community advocate active in New York and Philadelphia, died of cancer at his Brooklyn home last Wednesday. He was 57.
Kest will be remembered for the work he has done on the behalf of low-income working families.
Shortly after graduating from Penn, he worked as an organizer for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, establishing a local chapter in Philadelphia before moving to New York in the 1980s.
He was also one of the founding members of the Working Families Party, a progressive minority party that advocates on behalf of working and middle-class families.
Executive Director of the Working Families Party Dan Cantor said in a statement on Saturday. “Jon was a remarkable man … He had both a backbone of steel and a quick and supple mind, and that’s an awfully hard combination to beat.”
According to The New York Times, Kest helped to organize a strike of about 200 New York fast food workers on Nov. 29, working hard despite his illness.
“It is fitting perhaps, that he lived long enough to see the fast food and car wash worker efforts gain momentum and enormous public notice, for he was the intellectual author and practical genius behind both campaigns,” Cantor said.
He is survived by his wife, Fran Streich; his son, Jake Streich-Kest; his parents; and two siblings, Steven and Amy.
His daughter, Jessie Streich-Kest, recently died in Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy. Like her father, she attended Penn, graduating in 2010, and was herself a passionate activist.
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