Local victim of Orlando shooting remembered as being ‘full of life’

WESLACO — He loved Beyoncé. He put a smile on the faces of the people who knew him best. He believed “love has no gender,” a sentiment tattooed on his upper right arm.

Frank “Frankie” Hernandez Escalente, 27, was one of the victims at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where a mass shooting left 49 people dead and 53 wounded June 12. He was buried yesterday in Weslaco surrounded by friends and family from across the country.

Hernandez’s older brother Jose Hernandez said he got a call the day after the shooting informing him that his brother had been at the nightclub the day of the shooting, and they couldn’t find him. He remembers his brother as being full of life.

“He put a smile on everybody’s face,” Hernandez said. “He wasn’t a threat or a bother to anybody. As a matter of fact, people wanted him around. He would bring a smile to everybody, a good spirit to everybody. He was very social and a good person.”

One of six children, Hernandez grew up in Weslaco, attended Weslaco East High School and graduated with honors in 2006. Shortly after graduation, he got a job at Calvin Klein at the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes. Two years ago, Hernandez got a promotion and relocated to manage a store in Orlando. Calvin Klein donated $10,000 to help with Saturday’s funeral expenses.

Abigail Lerma, one of Hernandez’s former coworkers at the Calvin Klein store in Mercedes, said she met him when she began working at the store in 2011.

“We clicked right away,” Lerma said. “It was like instant chemistry. I have so many memories of him —road trips, going out, him being at my house. I always kept in touch with him through Snapchat or texting.”

Lerma described Hernandez as being very fun, energetic, sassy, but caring more than anything. She last saw him not too long ago when he came to visit the Rio Grande Valley. Lerma said she found out about Hernandez’s passing through Facebook and did not want to believe it.

“I could never remember or think of a time when he was upset,” Lerma said. “I want people to think of him by the smile he brought to people’s faces. He loved Beyoncé, and I will forever think of him whenever I hear (her music.)”

Franklin Leal knew Hernandez briefly because of their mutual friends.

“When I found out about what happened, I was in shock,” Leal said in Spanish. “It was an impact because you never imagine that something like that would happen to someone you know.”

Frankie’s mother, Esmeralda Leal, said he was cheerful and loved to eat and go out. She thanked family, friends and people who didn’t really know her son for all the support.

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