Frankie Hernandez Escalante: 'A rock to his friends and family'

Hernandez Escalante loved Beyonce, traveling

By Richard Ochoa - Producer, Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

Colleagues of Frankie Hernandez, 27, said he was a wonderful person to be around, and that his hard work and dedication made everyone work harder.

Hernandez grew up in Texas before moving to Orlando. He graduated with honors from Weslaco East High School in 2006, according to his official obituary.

An outgoing young man, Hernandez coached gymnastics and loved to travel.

Hernandez was a manager at a Calvin Klein store in Orlando before he was killed June 12, 2016, in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub.

He was inspired by performers like Beyonce, Britney Spears and Madonna. Hernandez regularly posted pictures or songs of the singers on Facebook. Hernandez even saw Beyonce twice in concert.

“Frank will always be remembered as a young man who was hilarious, driven, hardworking and a rock to his friends and family,” according to his obituary.

Hernandez was at the nightclub with his longtime boyfriend, Brett Rigas, who was shot twice but able to escape.

Once outside, he immediately called Hernandez's sister Julissa Leal Escalante who lives in Louisiana telling her Hernandez was missing.

She and their mother, Esmeralda Leal, drove 12 hours to Orlando once she learned about the carnage that took place.

His family would wait 24 hours before hearing that Hernandez was among the 49 victims who died.

"They took my big brother away from me, they took him away from us,” she said on Facebook after learning of his death. “Frankie we love you, we will always love you and we will never forget you. You will always be in my heart. I love you Frankie."‚Äč

On July 27, what would have been  Hernandez's 28th birthday, a friend of 15 years, Linda Garza, wrote on Facebook that she hoped Selena would sing him happy birthday in heaven.

“It's still astonishing to me that you're not here, to laugh, to party, to celebrate, to just be your amazing self,” Garza said.

More than $16,000 was donated on a GoFundMe account set up by Garza to bring Hernandez back to Texas for his burial.

He was buried June 18 in Waslaco, Texas.


Besides his mother, sister and Rigas, Hernandez is survived by his father, Jose Hernandez; his stepfather, Jesus A Leal; his grandfather, Antonio Escalante; his grandmother, Maria T Escalante; his other sisters, Jessica Leal and Ruby Leal; his brothers, Jose Hernandez and Jesus Leal.


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