This story was updated on July 21.
Estelle Hedaya (pictured), director of operations at Continental Buying Group (CBG) and Preferred Jewelers International, died in the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla., on June 24.
She was 54.
Hedaya, who had only recently moved into the condominium, had been among eight people listed as missing in the building collapse, which killed 98 people in total. It is considered among the worst building collapses in American history.
Hedaya was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and had been involved in the jewelry industry—in which her mother also worked—since high school. From 2009 to 2015, she worked for World Trade Jewelers and Hershey’s Kiss Jewelry as director of sales, and in 2015, she took what friends called her “dream job” at CBG.
Joe Murphy, owner of CBG, told the local NBC affiliate that he thought of Hedaya as not just an employee, but as family.
“She’s from Brooklyn, she has that Brooklyn accent, she has that loud voice, and God, I miss it,” he said. “I don’t know anyone that had a bad word to say about Estelle.”
Hedaya was devoted to her Jewish faith, and loved traveling, dancing, and fitness. She chronicled her adventures as a “New Yorker taking Miami by storm in the most fabulous fashion” on her blog, Follow the Toes.
Krista Poole, a buyer at Hudson-Poole Fine Jewelers in Tuscaloosa, Ala., told a local TV station that Hedaya was “just wonderful. She never met a stranger. Any time you would go to a jewelry show, she was just the life of the party.”
“She was always happy and smiling even when the weather was bad,” friend Ray Thomas told Newsbreak. “She had her own way about her that just seemed to radiate onto others. I’ll always remember her smiling face.”
CBG plans to set up a fund in Hedaya’s name for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Murphy said on Facebook, where industry colleagues gathered to mourn and remember her.
At the time of publication, there was no information on surviving family.
This article has been updated.
(Photo courtesy of Continental Buying Group)
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