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Remembering the Orlando Victims

By |2018-01-16T07:50:35-05:00June 30th, 2016|National, News|

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Stanley graduated from East Ridge High School in Clermont, FL in 2011 and studied at Anthem College to work towards his goal of becoming a pharmacy technician. His aunt Yoly described him as “an amazing person with a good soul.” She said he had a promising future. He would have celebrated his 24th birthday on June 25.

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
The 25-year-old had reshaped herself over two years, shedding 180 pounds with the help of gastric bypass surgery and daily workouts. She proudly documented her transformation. “Can you tell I look better? Can you tell I look cuter,” she teased her brother, Brian Alvear, 32. Amanda worked as a pharmacy technician. She planned to be a nurse. Her brother said she frequented gay and lesbian clubs because they were fun places, and she felt safe to be herself. “She wouldn’t want anyone to spread hate for her,” he said.

Oscar Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Oscar returned from a vacation in New York and Canada just before he went to Pulse. He lived with another victim of the attack, Simon A. Carrillo, with three pet Chihuahuas in a home they purchased together last year. “Oscar’s countenance brightened my classroom each week,” said English professor Heidi H. Ramirez at Valencia College where Oscar was pursuing a degree. “He had a very positive attitude and outlook on life. He was excited to pursue his educational and career goals.” Originally from the Dominican Republic, friends posted on social media that Oscar’s mother does not have a visa that would allow her to come to the U.S. to attend the funeral or retrieve her son’s body.

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
A biologics supervisor at the OneBlood donation center, Rody, as he was called, was dedicated to his work. The Puerto Rican native loved his career and was known for his compassion, said Johnny Rivera Muniz, a friend for the past two years. Rody was all about “doing things the right way,” he said. Rody had bought both a car and a house within the past year. This coming Wednesday would have been his one-year anniversary for home ownership.

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Antonio’s work and military service were his points of pride. He was a 2008 graduate of Florida A&M University where he had been a member of R.O.T.C. He was a captain in the Army reserves and his military record included a tour of duty in Kuwait. Lt. Col. Kelvin Scott, who taught Antonio in R.O.T.C., described him as an upbeat, hard worker. “He was a very positive person with a very good sense of humor,” Colonel Scott said. “He was willing to work very hard to earn his commission.” Antonio worked at Lowe’s as a human resources manager.

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Darryl skipped a trip to New Orleans with his best friend to go dancing at Pulse. Darryl wanted to celebrate his just-earned Master’s degree in Human Resources Management. “He loved to dance. He loved to have fun,” his friend Mahogany Avent said. Darryl was a financial aid officer for Keiser University and an active community volunteer. “He was personable, social and easy going,” said Shawn DeVries, president of the Jacksonville Jaycees, which Darryl joined in late 2015. “Both socially and professionally he was always interested in making a positive impact on people’s lives and in the community.”

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Angel had recently moved from Chicago to Orlando. Helen Rivera, his office manager at Medical Eye Associates in Kissimmee, said, “He moved from Chicago, because he was tired – basically, he said the crime over there – he just wanted a better life.” He was all set to start a new job June 20 at the Florida Retina Institute as an ophthalmic technician. In Chicago, Angel had been a Zumba instructor, an employee at Old Navy and a nurse technician. Working at the Illinois Eye Institute in Chicago, “[Angel] put on quite the dance demonstration” at the institute’s annual Christmas party, said Sandra Engram, a former co-worker, in an email. “We were all standing around watching him. It was great.”

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 24 years old
Juan moved from Mexico to Florida eight years ago and is remembered by his colleagues and employees as a kind and loving person. He worked for APDC Services, a staffing company partner of Reunion Resorts in Kissimmee, where he was a housekeeping supervisor. Juan was remembered by his supervisor as an “extremely dedicated, hard worker,” said Alicia Amarro, chief financial officer for APDC. “He was extremely friendly, very dedicated to his family, to his co-workers. … It is very difficult. Everybody loved him.”

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Luis went to the same high school in Puerto Rico as Juan Pablo Rivera Velasquez. They became life partners and ran a beauty salon in Kissimmee together. They were both killed in the Pulse massacre. Irene Rivera of Kissimmee, who visited their salon, Alta Peluqueria D’Magazine, spoke of the couple’s work on the Belleza Latina pageant and said they were at Gay Days at Walt Disney World the previous weekend. “Everyone knows about this beauty salon,” Rivera said. “They loved people. They lived to help people.”

Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Cory was a “family man through and through,” a young man who loved football, hoped to be a fire fighter and was still remembered by former teachers as the “sweetest kid ever.” He was working towards his associates degree at Valencia College. Cory was to be the best man at his brother’s wedding in the fall. Ryan Connell described his brother as a scrappy guy who stood tall. “Size didn’t matter when it came to Cory,” he said. “And don’t mess with his mama either.” Cory was a regular at the Orange County firehouse and was interested in pursuing a firefighting career after college, even though he was warned that the profession wasn’t the most lucrative. Cory said, “I don’t care about money. I want to do it because I want to save lives. I want to help people.'”

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
An entrepreneur and business owner, Tevin was from Statesville, S.C. He went to Strayer University South in Charlotte where he studied business administration. Later he moved to Saginaw and owned his own marketing firm, Total Entrepreneurs Concepts. “He was very ambitious,” said his brother, Chavis Crosby. “Whatever goal he had in mind, he worked hard. Whether alone or on a team, he worked on that goal.” Tevin loved to travel for work and fun. He watched several nieces and nephews graduate before heading to his hometown of Statesville, N.C. Tevin then flew to Orlando after the visit with family.

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Deonka was working hard to turn her life around. “She was climbing from some difficult days to some better days,” Shepherd Drayton said of his oldest daughter. “She had started going back to church and changed some of the people she spent time with.” Deonka’s life had been altered once before by a traumatic event. She was ejected from a family vehicle during a car accident when she was a child and suffered brain damage, her father said. “She struggled growing up with the chemistry of everything in her changing,” Shephard Drayton said. “… She went through a lot of difficulty growing up. She was becoming who she was, more so than what everyone else wanted her to be,” her father said.

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Simon was a manager at a McDonald’s. His attention to detail was a trademark of his leadership style, something his colleagues deeply admired. His co-workers were “distraught, falling apart,” after they learned their manager and his partner Oscar Aracena-Montero, were among those killed. Simon and Oscar had just returned from Niagara Falls. Simon was born in Venezuela, had been to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, to Mexico and on cruises, to Anna Maria Island and Clearwater and Playalinda Beach. “He worked to be able to enjoy his life,” said McDonald’s general manager Ivonne Irizarry. The couple had recently purchased their Kissimmee home. Simon enjoyed dancing, reggaeton, bachata, salsa and meringue music. He rode bikes and water skis.

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Leroy was a natural performer. He loved dressing up and dancing to moves he choreographed in front of crowds while belting out renditions of Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez. His zeal for life spilled offstage, even at his job as a leasing agent at Auvers Village Apartments in Orlando. “He filled our office with music,” said Yolanda Quinones-Perez, Fernandez’s friend and manager. “He sang Adele in the office until we couldn’t take it anymore. It just feels very quiet, now.”

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Mercedez studied literature at Valencia College and had an interest in party planning.
She was also an avid music fan, according to her niece, Jennifer Flores. “Whenever I was in the car with her, she always had the music blasting, and I guess she got the love of music from my father and uncle who are DJs,” said Flores. “She was just a really fun nice person and cared a lot about her friends. She really did live her life the way she wanted to.” Mercedez was originally from Queens, N.Y. and worked at Target since 2008.

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Peter worked at a UPS store. “He was just someone to make everyone laugh,” said his friend Ricky Ayala. A former teacher wrote on a condolence page that he brought “contagious joy” and “contagious humor” into the classroom. “No matter what kind of day I was having, he always made me laugh,” wrote Ana Mendoza-Feliciano, who said she taught him at Orange County’s Liberty Middle School.

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Juan was a former Valencia College student and pre-finance student at the University of Central Florida. He and his partner, Christopher Leinonen, were both killed in the Pulse massacre. Juan is remembered by friends as very passionate, someone who would fill a room with energy and was loved instantly by anyone he met. “He was so funny. He was always telling jokes and making people laugh. And he loved peanut butter. He was always trying to get everybody into peanut butter,” said Brittany Sted, a close friend of the couple. In an interview with TIME, the families said they will hold a joint funeral for the couple.

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Paul, a St. Petersburg native, loved to dance and have fun. He loved his family, including his two children. His daughter, Alexia, recently graduated high school. He also had a son. His heartbroken boyfriend, Francisco Hernandez, said, “I miss him. I love him, I took care of him, and he took care of me. Such a loving spirit. I’ll always have him in my heart.” Paul was a sales representative at Orange Lakes Resorts, and was a wonderful musician who played the piano, organ and sang.

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Born in Jalisco, TX, Frank managed a Calvin Klein store in Orlando. He was at Pulse with his boyfriend, Brett Rigas (who survived), when the shooting started. The two were approaching their three-year anniversary. According to those who loved him, Frank was a lively, fun man with a big heart. “He was such an incredible guy,” said friend Jimmy Robinson. “He loved clothing, he loved life, he was very artsy,” said Robinson.

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Two female friends invited the married father of three boys to Pulse for a night off work managing his family’s restaurant. Miguel’s cousin, Cristian Honorato, remembered him as a hands-on father who planned elaborate birthday parties for his sons, including a recent “Ferrari” -themed bash for his youngest boy. “He was the kind of person who went all out for his kids — and for his family,” his cousin said. Miguel was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. at age 4. His business partner, Mario Cabriales, said he remembered Miguel as a hard-working and compassionate man. “He cared about his employees and gave a lot more than he got. He enjoyed life and wanted to make sure everyone else did, too,” Cabriales said.

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Javier was an accomplished makeup artist and sales representative at Cucci. “He liked to go out,” said friend Jose Diaz of Tampa. “He was proud to be Latino, super proud.” Friends knew him as “Javi” and on Facebook recalled his smile, sass and energy. “He was always positive,” Diaz said. “He was very humble. He was a lovely friend.” Javier was one of the first people Jorge Cruz met in Orlando. “He introduced me to my fiance, Fernando. We’ve been together 16 years,” Cruz said. Style-conscious and customer-oriented, Javier was a natural in sales at Gucci. “He was super outgoing,” Diaz said. Gucci has arranged for the body to be transported and for his siblings to go back to Puerto Rico for the funeral. His mother and father still live there.

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Like many 19-year-olds, Jason had many interests and was just starting to chart his path in life, according to his family — he was computer savvy, loved to work out and had an interest in photography. “He was very excited about his journey,” said Jason’s uncle. Jason had recently graduated from high school and had begun classes at Valencia College where he was studying computer science. Jason’s aunt and uncle described him as the quiet type, never one to bother anyone. “He was always helpful, always willing to help someone in need,” said his aunt. His uncle said, “Never once has he ever shown any type of rage or anger. He was just high on life.”

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
The words “Mommy I love you” were the first in a tragic series of texts Eddie sent to his mother. He woke his mother Mina Justice at 2:06 a.m. with those words, followed by “In club they shooting.” Eddie was an accountant who lived in downtown Orlando, “in a sky house, like the Jeffersons,” his mother told the Associated Press. She described him as “a homebody who liked to eat and work out,” and as someone who “liked to make everybody laugh.”

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old
Since he was a boy, Anthony loved to dance. It didn’t matter the style — salsa, mambo, tango, or ballroom dancing — he was filled with joy when he was on a dance floor moving to a music’s rhythm, family members said. “He was very talented,” cousin Ana Figueroa of Orlando said. “He started dancing when he was about 10 years old. It was his passion.” Anthony was born and raised in Puerto Rico and attended college there. He moved to Orlando several years ago to pursue a career in dance. His body was returned to Puerto Rico where his family conducted the funeral.

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Detroit native Christopher – Drew to his friends – was the son of Mark Bando, a retired Detroit police officer. Drew’s mother Christine Leinonen was a Michigan State Police state trooper from 1981 to 1990. His parents were not married when he was conceived and born and he was raised by her as a single parent and he had her last name. Before reaching high school Drew lived in Macomb County. He and his mother moved to Florida in the early 1990s. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology at the University of Central Florida, and worked as a licensed mental health counselor. In his junior year of high school, he started a gay-straight alliance, his mother said, and more recently he won the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for his work in the gay community. Both he and his life partner, Juan Ramon Guerrero, were killed at Pulse.

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Alejandro was an outgoing native of Cuba who “always had a smile on his face,” said a friend Sarai Torres. He’d just moved to Florida from Cuba in 2015, she said, and was still trying to master English. At 3:30 a.m. that terrible morning Alejandro sent a text message to his partner: “I don’t have time to tell you I am in a shooting and can’t leave scared with blood I love you don’t doubt it.” Then later: “My love, I am afraid of dying.” His mother, Orquidea Martinez, who lives in Candelaria in Cuba, came to America to make funeral arrangements. She was issued a U.S. visa to travel to Orlando to claim her son’s body.

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
A mother of 11, Brenda stepped into the ring with cancer twice and beat it both times.
“She was a fighter,” said Noreen Vaquer, who met her as a Brooklyn kindergartener. “She doesn’t take nothing from nobody.” She was at Pulse that night with one of her sons who made it out alive. Her sons and daughters introduced themselves by number as they stood beside her flower-draped coffin at her funeral. No. 8, Edwin Johnson, said he thought his mom was beautiful. No. 6, Khiana Marshall, said she could speak at the funeral service only because her mother had helped her overcome shyness. No. 2, Robert Pressley Jr., described her courage amid stem cell treatments for leukemia. “She was a warrior,” said Farrell Marshall Jr., No. 5. “I never thought her life would be ended right in front of my eyes,” said Henderson, his brothers on either side to support him through deep sobs.

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Gilberto grew up in Manati, Puerto Rico, and moved to Orlando a few years ago. He was studying health care management at the Ana G. Mendez University’s Orlando campus. “He was a dedicated man, with great dreams of helping people in need, and the desire of becoming a health care professional. He carried positive and contagious attitude towards life,” said Maricelly Alomar, counselor at the school.

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Kimberly “KJ” moved to Orlando about two months ago. She left Hawaii to help her mother who is ill and her grandmother, both of whom live in Orlando. KJ had recently found a job at the Pulse nightclub, where she was a bouncer. A college basketball star at Post University in Waterbury, CT, after college she headed north to western Massachusetts and got a job in student affairs at Amherst College. After working there from 2001 to 2004, she found a similar role at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., an LGBT-friendly town where “she pretty much blossomed,” said her brother, Randy Morris Jr. “She felt real comfortable there.” KJ performed as a drag king known as Daddy K. “Everyone knew her,” said Nelson Roman, a city councilor in Holyoke, Mass. and a Waterbury native. “She really sparked this new wave in this area. She was a local drag king icon.”

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Akyra, the youngest victim at Pulse, was in Orlando on a family vacation to celebrate her graduation from Philadelphia’s West Catholic Preparatory High School and to visit her brother. She was a high school basketball star and was bound this fall for Mercyhurst University on a full athletic scholarship. “Akyra was a superstar who was a leader among her classmates and teammates,” her high school principal said in a statement. “She was an honors student who graduated third in her class, and a 1,000 point scorer on the Lady Burrs basketball team.”

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Originally from Cleveland, Luis moved to Florida to fulfill his dreams of becoming an actor and professional dancer. “Omar was only 20 years old,” Jose Angel Rodriguez said of his friend in an emotional video that he posted to Facebook. “He had an entire life ahead of him. He was a happy soul. All he liked to do was just dance, all he liked to do was listen to music.”

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Geraldo flew to Orlando from his home in Puerto Rico to catch a concert by Selena Gomez the night before he went to Pulse with friends. “He was humble, simple and charismatic,” Geraldo’s friend Gregory Fabian said. “He was all good, hardworking, funny and a dreamer.” Geraldo’s studied at Universidad del Este in Carolina, Puerto Rico, where lived. Ortiz went to high school in Lancaster, PA. Many of his social media posts show him working out and singing along to Selena Gomez tunes.

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Eric came to Florida from Puerto Rico to work his way up in his career and have a chance at a better life. He worked in merchandise management, first for Toys “R” Us and then for Ross. He held a bachelor’s degree in communications from Univercidad Central de Bayamon. Eric had a brother and an aunt living in the Orlando area — as well as a wide group of friends. “I am really in shock that he was in the club, because he was not usually a club-scene person,” his former roommate said. “Eric was always willing to help everybody. He sacrificed himself a lot for his family. He loved his brother, and he was always being generous.”

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Joel was raised in Veracruz, Mexico, and in the early 2000s moved to Florida, where he had a brother. He went back to Mexico for several years to live near his parents and other relatives, but he returned to Florida less than a year ago and lived near Tampa. Joel was a construction worker. Friends and family remembered him as a humble, cheerful, religious person who did his best to uplift people. “He was the best,” said longtime friend Lorena Barragan, who met Rayon Paniagua at church. “He was loyal. He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better.”

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Jean was all about looking, smelling and feeling his best, loved ones said. Born in Puerto Rico, he hit the gym almost daily to keep himself in shape. He always tested out a new fragrance and had just started wearing a fresh-smelling Jimmy Choo perfume. And his humor and warmth made him the best salesperson that his coworker at Perfumania had ever met. “He laughed with the people and would make jokes,” said Claudia Agudelo, who worked with Perez at the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets store. “He was always happy.” One of the customers Perez charmed at the perfume shop was Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who would become his longtime partner. They were together at Pulse that night, and both were killed.

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Enrique L. Rios left his home in New York to spend the weekend celebrating a friend’s birthday in Orlando. He was a social worker at a home health agency in Brooklyn. He was also actively involved in his faith and regularly attended Greater Free Baptist Church in Brooklyn with his parents. Bishop William Whitaker said that Rios “had a love for God that was phenomenal.” He added that he aced evening bible classes and regularly participated in the youth ministry. Family and friends of Rios paint a picture of a determined, helpful, and caring young man.

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Jean was a native of Puerto Rico and worked as a general manager at a check-cashing store. He had just purchased his first home not even two months ago. He wanted his mom to live someplace nice. “He was just a caring, loving guy — just like a big teddy bear,” said one of his best friends, Ivonne Irizarry. “He wanted to be the best at what he did, and he would work very hard to achieve that. So if he had to put in the long hours to get it right, he’d do it. If he had to stay to work a double [shift], he did it. That’s why whatever job he went to, he became a manager.”

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Xavier entertained crowds throughout Florida. He was described as a happy, energetic person who enjoyed salsa dancing and spending time with his 5-year-old son. Xavier had performed at local theme parks, including Walt Disney World, and on the Norwegian Cruise Line. He most recently worked at the Aldo shoe store chain. An employee there said Xavier had switched over to retail because the hours were more suitable for a parent. “He was always happy all the time,” said Cynthia Rodriguez, a store manager at Aldo. “He loved what he did. He always talked about his son.”

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Christopher worked at a branch of JPMorgan Chase in the Tampa area and enjoyed working out. He was close with his family. In one Facebook picture, he sat with his brother, Junior, who slung his arm protectively around his younger brother. In another image, the two posed with their mother — “I Love Mom” was the caption. Christopher’s family moved from Cuba in the 1960s, family friend Mike Wallace said. He took business classes at a community college and was hired as a bank teller and worked his way up to become a personal banker. “He (was) a wonderful person and this is such a tragedy,” said Wallace. “He was cut down in his prime.”

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Yilary was married to race-car driver Juan Borges and a mother of two — including a 3-month-old son, Sergio. She worked at a Wendy’s in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida. She lived in Kissimmee. She was at Pulse with her brother-in-law who was shot twice, but his injuries were not considered serious.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
A resident of Sarasota, Edward had recently returned from Cuba, after coordinating the first-ever gay cruise to the island nation in April. He was a brand manager for LGBT travel agency agency. Edward was among the best-known figures in the LGBT travel industry, as national coordinator for the “Drag Stars at Sea” cruise, which featured stars of the popular reality TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Known to his friends as “top-hat Eddie” because of the black top hat he always wore to events, Edward was “very outgoing, very friendly” and an “all-around great guy,” said friend Jason Howell. “He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. He touched so many people’s lives because he’s such a positive person. He would do anything for anybody.”

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Shane sang with his band Frequency at another club earlier on the night he was killed at Pulse. He was a vibrant and charismatic lead vocalist for the cover band, performing at nightclubs and weddings. “Not only was he a great person, he was a tremendous talent, a role model for all in the music business,” said an email from Dennis Bailey, president of the management firm that worked with Frequency. “Someone who strived to be the best and made everyone around him better.” Shane lived in Orlando and had studied at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., graduating in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Martin of San Juan, Puerto Rico, arrived in Orlando to visit family a few days before the shooting at Pulse. He had enrolled in May as a pharmacy tech student in Tampa, at a satellite campus of Puerto Rican university Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez. “He was a diligent and extremely hardworking student; thankful for the opportunity to advance his career and hopeful to make his dreams a reality,” said Carla Zayas, Spanish professor at the university, via prepared statement. Devoted to family, Martin posted videos on his Facebook page hours before the shooting, showing him sharing time with an aunt and family he was staying with in Orlando. He recorded a walking tour of the apartment property grounds to show friends and relatives back in Puerto Rico.

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Jonathan moved to Florida to work for a Spanish TV network, where he was a producer for a popular children’s talent competition. He worked for La Voz Kids, similar to the NBC show “The Voice,” produced in Orlando and aired on Telemundo. “He was a great assistant producer,” Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, said in a statement. “Jonathan will be missed dearly.” The National Association of Hispanic Journalists said he had been an active member at a student chapter in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida.

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Juan ran the salon Alta Peluqueria D’Magazine in Kissimmee, Fla., with his longtime partner, Luis Daniel Conde. They died together in the Pulse massacre. Juan was from Puerto Rico. A friend, Jocelyn DeLeon, said the couple were well known around the area and in Puerto Rico, with loyal customers often travelling great distances to visit their salon, because Juan and Luis had a way of making people feel special. “They would take the shirt off their back to help others. If someone wasn’t smiling, they would try to make them smile. They were good, kind people. They never had a [bad word] for anyone,” said DeLeon.

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
An attraction operator at Universal Orlando, Luis always went above and beyond for the park’s guests — and his friends. He participated in his parents’ businesses and acted as a Spanish-to-English translator when they needed him. He was also a mentor to his siblings, Brian and Kimberly. Luis planned to become an EMT, said Josh Boesch, who worked with Vielma at Universal. “He was always caring and he always wanted to learn more.” He was an Emergency Medical Services student at Seminole State College, according to a statement from the school, having graduated Cum Laude in Summer 2014 with an Associate in Arts Degree. He was taking a CPR class this summer and enrolled in classes for the fall semester.

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Jimmy, as he was known, was the oldest of the victims killed at Pulse. He was born in Puerto Rico and attended the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, before moving to Orlando. Jimmy was a visual merchandiser for clothing retailer Forever 21, and was a professional Jibaro dancer — a style of Hispanic folk music from Puerto Rico — who traveled the world. “He was a very outgoing, friendly person,” said former co-worker Bret Werner. “Everyone wanted to be around him.”

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Luis grew up in Puerto Rico, and was a protector, confidant and hero, according to Daniel Gmys-Casiano, a friend for almost 20 years. “We grew up in a really small town in Puerto Rico … and he was going to the same church that I was, and he was always the odd man out. He was bullied constantly. He was different. He would dress in black, wear long sideburns,” Gmys-Casiano said. When Luis decided to leave Puerto Rico,”he moved to Vero Beach, alone, and knowing almost no English – he was my hero,” Gmys-Casiano said. Luis got a job in a shoe store and was quickly promoted to manager, and eventually gave Gmys-Casiano a job when he moved from Puerto Rico to the U.S. Luis’ partner of eight years, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, was killed at Pulse too.

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Jerald was one of a tight-knit group of friends he worked with at Walt Disney World. “It’s hard to understand, but the people you work with at Disney, they are an amazing family,” said Scott Dickison, who worked with Jerald at Disney. “Jerry was a great guy to work with. He was quiet but really wonderful with all the guests. He always had a smile on his face.” Jerald went to Pulse to help a friend, Cory James Connell, celebrate his 21st birthday. Connell was also killed in the shootings. Jerald has family in Miami, and attended Westminster Christian School before going to college at Florida International University.

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
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