Thursday, June 16, 2016

Christopher Andrew Leinonen

I met Chris back in high school. I had originally become friends with Amber who introduced us. The first memory I have of him is walking home with me and Amber. 

Tragically, Chris (or Drew as he preferred to be called more recently) lost his life in the Pulse shooting in Orlando on June 12th, 2016. 

What I remember about him the most is his distinctive voice, his phenomenal wit, and his courage. He started the Gay Straight Alliance at our High School. Amidst push back and ridicule he went forward with the group. Not only was he determined to be himself, he brought more awareness to issues within the LGBT community. He made it safer and more comfortable for others who were struggling with themselves or their families. He was a wonderful man and I have always been immensely proud of him. 

I scoured through my old high school photo albums and found my favorite memories of him. 

The first photo I have of Chris from Fall 2001. He is standing between Tricia (left) and Amber (right).
Hanging out in my room after school singing to whatever song we had on the radio. 
Chris and Amber at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art. 
Chris and I posing in front of some sculpture. 
Shenanigans at McDonald's
One of my favorite memories of Chris. We went trick-or-treating. It was a spur of the moment decision and we scrambled to pull our costumes together. He randomly gathered a bunch of bright clothes together to make a clown outfit while I wore all black and witch hat. After we had been out for a while we got tired of telling people that we were a clown and a witch so whenever we got asked we jokingly told people that we were Elton John and Barbara Streisand.
After we were done trick-or-treating we felt like it was still too early to go home so we went to the Target in Largo Mall. We sat in the food court area and filled up on candy. We got one of the Target employees to take a photo of us. 
Before we headed home he took off his costume and I caught him off guard when I took this photo of him getting in his truck. I always loved his expression in this photo. 
After school in the courtyard with Chris, Amber, and Tricia. 
Chris, Tricia, and myself. 
Chris and I goofing around in children's playground at Walsingham Park. We were never too big or too mature. This has always been one of my absolute favorite photos from high school. 
On another trip to the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art.
Tricia, Chris, and Amber
Niasya, Chris, and my sister Jennifer at one of Amber's many amazing house parties. 

Chris and I somewhere in St. Petersburg.
Amber and Chris
Chris, Niasya, Amber and myself during another one of Amber's house parties.
Forth of July 2009 Chris, Amber and I went to downtown Orlando for the fireworks.
Chris and Amber laughing while he tried to take a photo of her. 

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