Natasha Brenner, a suburbanite who moved into New York City at the age of 87 and became a beloved fixture in the animal rights movement, has died at 98.
In 2008, Natasha, then 87, and her husband Noah, who died in 2014, moved into the City from Long Island and dedicated the last years of their lives to fighting for the rights of animals. When she turned 97, Natasha gave an interview about her fascinating life, which started before the Great Depression and ended during the historic COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout her late 80s and 90s, Natasha worked on several grass roots animal rights campaigns in the streets and online, but the one closest to her heart was the effort to ban horse-drawn carriages. She would always say the thing she wanted to see most before she died was for the horses to be taken out of harm’s way and given a humane retirement. She was therefore elated when, in 2012, Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio made a campaign pledge to ban horse-drawn carriages. She was crestfallen when he didn’t fulfill his promise. However, she died knowing that the horses, who were taken out of NYC due to the corona virus pandemic, might not return for a very long time, if ever.
Natasha was an extravagant woman – but not with herself. Instead of buying things, Natasha gave her money to charity. In fact, the spreadsheet with the list of charities she supported was breathtaking. But Natasha was generous with her time too. When they were mobile, Natasha and Noah participated in protests around NYC all the time. Because of their age, their mere presence captured peoples’ attention; they knew they were a secret weapon. After the protests, Natasha and Noah insisted on taking the subway home instead of a taxi. Their friends used to hover over them as they entered the subway station because we were terrified that they would tumble down the steps — canes and walkers flying through the air. Their bodies were fragile, but they prioritized helping others over their own safety.
In 2018, the animal rights group Mercy For Animals produced a video about Natasha’s life.
As she aged through her 90s, Natasha stopped participating in the street protests, but she stayed active online. She also maintained a robust social life because her many younger friends loved her and enjoyed her company. She was sharp, funny and caring until the end. Following are two of the many testimonials published on social media:
For the past seven or eight years, Natasha’s friends hosted an annual birthday dinner for her. They thought that the tradition would continue until she turned 100, given her good physical and mental health. Unfortunately, Natasha fell and broke her shoulder a few weeks ago, and that was the beginning of the end. She died in the comfort of her own home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on May 25th, 2020.
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