By all accounts, Justyna Palka was a remarkable talent.
Within six months of graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Palka landed a job as an Art Director at Ogilvy & Mather, a global advertising, communications and public relations firm
"She was a very creative person. There's a lot of graphic designers in this world, but when you combine art and graphic design, you get this sort of creative combustion," recalled Elliott Beazley, who worked with Palka at F Newsmagazine, SAIC's student-run publication.
That creative flame was extinguished Tuesday, when Palka was struck and killed by a tour bus as she crossed the street at East Illinois Street and North Columbus Drive, in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood.
Beazley, a former intern at NBC Chicago, remembered Palka as fun, flirtatious, upbeat and fashionable.
"Very beautiful young woman with a Polish accent. We got along very well. We even ate at PJ Clarke's at that intersection about a year ago. I'm still in shock, really. She loved what she was doing," he said. "She will be missed."
Palka was born in Krakow, Poland and grew up in Dortmund, Germany before moving to Chicago in 2005, she detailed on her personal website. She gave every indication that she enjoyed her time in Chicago.
"When someone says to themselves, 'I'm going to get my education in an international environment,' to come here and take that risk really says something about that person. And then to stay here really speaks to what she was thinking," said Beazley.
Palka was the only daughter in the family and had two brothers who babied her, a family friend, Monika Moskal, told the Chicago Tribune. She had just gone back to Germany over Christmas to visit her family after her brother recently had a daughter.
Though he'd not spoken with Palka in a while, Beazley said he became aware of her trip home from a photo she'd posted to Facebook of the moving walkway at the O'Hare International Airport.
"Thank God that she got to see her family," said Beazley. "If it weren't five months ago, it could have been years."