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Gunned Down Orlando Couple Danny and Jean Were 'The Perfect Team'

Danny Wilson

The gay partners who lost their lives Sunday at Pulse inspired their friends to live authentic lives.

ORLANDO--The world met Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37, this week after he died in the shooting at gay nightclub Pulse.

His name, along with his partner's, Jean Carlos Mendex Perez, 35, has been repeated at countless vigils as mourners say goodbye to the 49 killed in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

But to his friends, he was Danny.

"As soon as we met, it's like we never lost touch," Alejandra Acevedo said. "He hugged me and immediately told me about his life."

Acevedo first met her friend Danny in high school in Puerto Rico. He was a senior, and she was a junior.

"Seniors didn't really hang out with the lower grades," she said. "But he was always so welcoming to the younger kids. He was always someone who cared for us and looked out for us."

Daniel Gmys-Casiano met Danny about the same time when his godmother brought him to Danny's church.

"He could be really quiet at first," Gmys-Casiano said. "He was skeptical because he was bullied for being different. And the church could be very strict. I mean, it was a sin just to have facial hair. But once he opened up, he was so sweet--so protective."

Danny left Puerto Rico about 2006. He hardly knew any English when he first arrived in Vero Beach.

"Everyone comes out here for a better life," Acevedo said. "Danny was the same. And he was a very hard worker."

She actually reconnected with her friend after meeting his partner, Jean, in the store he worked, Perfumania.

"Danny tells me really big, 'So now I'm gay,'" she said, laughing. "I told him I loved him no matter what. And he and Jean complemented each other so well. Danny was so creative, and Jean was a little more professional, a little more serious."

Gmys-Casiano described Danny as "a dreamer."

"He stood out from the rest," he said. "He was a rebel, against the current. And he and Jean made the perfect team. Jean was always quiet, but he laughed at every single joke Danny said."

Danny left behind his Pentecostal church in Puerto Rico, but he carried his faith with him.

"They were devoted Christians, and they were out and open," Gmys-Casiano said. "He would always say, 'I'm going to be praying for you,' and he meant it. The last message he sent me was asking for prayers for his mom because she was sick."

Danny was out to his family. His mother, an elder in her church, accepted him and would never let anybody speak ill about her children.

"When she spoke, everybody was silent," Gmys-Casiano said. "Mothers always know."

Now, she, her family, and Danny's friends prepare to bury a man who spent his youth protecting and looking out for others.

"He made me feel so good as the new girl in school," Acevendo said. "He showed me how to come out of my shell. I'm just so grateful for that."

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