Every week between now and the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, Orlando Weekly will profile a person killed on June 12, 2016. This week: Deonka Deidra Drayton
Her friends knew her as "Zeus."
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32, was a larger-than-life personality known for her dreadlocks, snapback hats, jokes and the love she gave to those she cared for, says her friend Lexington Martinez. He met her almost four years ago at the gay nightclub Pulse, and ever since then, Drayton called him her "Puerto Rican model boyfriend."
"Whenever I needed anything, I would just contact her," he says. "One time, my car broke down and she came to pick me up, even though she didn't have a car. Like, she borrowed a friend's car to save me."
Originally from South Carolina, Drayton was known as "Dee Dee" to her family. She had struggled through life but was hustling to make it better for herself and her young son, whom she co-parented with the child's mother, Emmy Addison, Martinez says.
Drayton was working at Pulse during the early morning hours of June 12 when a mass shooting started at the club. Drayton and 48 other people died in the massacre. Martinez says he was supposed to be there that night with a group of friends but decided to stay home. He remembers his friend as an amazing person who gave the best hugs.
"She used to literally just pick me up and swing me around," he says. "Her heart was so pure. She was trying to better herself, but she just didn't get a chance to finish that. I miss her smile and I miss her laugh."
Her father, Shepherd Drayton, told the Orlando Sentinel his daughter may not have had a perfect life, but "we loved her through all her ups and downs." In a post on BlackLesbianLoveLab.com, her former partner Emmy Addison says she and Drayton had booked a cruise for September to talk about getting back together.
"She was a great parent to our son and they loved each other so much," Addison wrote. "She always made sure our son never needed for anything. ... Her heart was truly whole. When she loved, she loved hard and just like anybody walking this earth, she just wanted to live happy with no worries."