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Mourners remember Bayside teen

Friends of a Bayside teenager who died from bacterial meningitis said they will remember her as an optimist who brought out the best in others.

Ava Hecht, 17, who lived in Bayside and attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, was found dead in her home last Thursday, according to a posting on the school’s Web site.

The city medical examiner’s office determined that Hecht died of bacterial meningitis, a spokeswoman for the city’s Health Department said Wednesday. Another student from the school was taken to a Manhattan hospital earlier this week after exhibiting signs of meningitis, but test results found that he had not contracted the illness, the spokeswoman said.

“Ava was an active and beloved member of the Stuyvesant community and we will all feel her loss deeply,” a statement on the school’s Web site read.

Hecht’s friends, who filed out with teary eyes from a funeral ceremony held Sunday at Sinai Chapel in Fresh Meadows, described her as a compassionate girl who constantly looked after the well−being of others.

“She was always so happy,” said friend Travis Kessel of Bayside, who had known Hecht since kindergarten. “She would always find some way to make everyone happy. She was one of the single most optimistic people I’ve ever known.”

Douglaston’s Kiran Sury said he worked with Hecht on Stuyvesant’s school newspaper for several years. Hecht was the paper’s arts editor, he said.

“She was absolutely amazing in everything she did,” he said. “She completely went out of her way to encourage others.”

Manhattan’s Julie Weprin said her son attended school at Stuyvesant with Hecht. She said the entire school community was shocked because Hecht had been in school last week.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “She just got through with four years at this incredibly challenging school. She had just gone through the college search process and should have gone on to have a wonderful life.”

A Facebook group page titled In Loving Memory of Ava Hecht has been created online. The page, which has already drawn 1,577 members and features 26 posts from Hecht’s friends, includes a statement which reads “she was an amazing person and cheered everyone up when they were down.”

Also listed on the Facebook page is a tribute to Hecht titled Project Ava. The tribute calls on people to write “From Ava” in the upper lefthand corner of $1 bills and hand them out to the homeless or subway artists. Hecht was especially fond of the East Village in Manhattan and the page suggests distributing money to the needy in that neighborhood.

Hecht was buried at Cedar Park Cemetery in New Jersey, a family friend said.

In a statement, Teitel said the school was asking that Hecht’s friends should get preventative treatment. But he said that casual contacts are not likely at risk for meningitis.

Symptoms of the disease, which kills an estimated 10 percent of persons who contract it, include fever, chills, stiff neck, headache, rash and nausea or vomiting.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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