Danny Lee Overstreet had a family that loved him. He had a poodle named Friday that was his world. And was a man with a quick and hearty laugh who had a regular job like many in Roanoke.
Overstreet also had a sexual orientation that cost him his life.
He was gay.
For that, an angry stranger sentenced him to death, on September 22, 2000 Friday.
Overstreet had two sisters and a brother in Roanoke and a brother in Delaware. Another brother died in 1995 of throat cancer.
"He was the life of the party and he was always the center of attention," His sister Darlene said. "And everyone liked it that way. He was like a magnet. He drew people in to him."
If there was one defining thing that Danny Lee Overstreet brought to this world, it was laughter. A laugh that pierced the soul, a laugh that his family said will live on past Overstreet's grave.
"He was the laughing man," his niece, Misty Overstreet, said in a eulogy. "He hated to see sadness."
"He was wonderful," his mother said. "He was jolly. More so than all my children. He had a big, loud laugh. He got tickled at the slightest thing."
Beside Overstreet's casket at his funeral, pictures of him laughing and living reminded people of the man gunned down in a bar on a Friday night.
Longtime family friend Deb Smith said Overstreet never said anything about being afraid or that he suspected he would be someone's target.
Smith said Overstreet had been to Gay Pride in the Park a couple of times, but she did not think he attended this year's event.
For all the things he was, one thing Overstreet wasn't was political. His family and friends knew he was gay, but co-workers may not have.
Overstreet had a beautician's license (he would often perm his mother's hair) but worked at Verizon, the communications firm, as a customer service representative.
John Goodhart Sr. worked with Overstreet at Verizon. "He was just one of those quiet, funny guys. Pleasant," he said. "He was overweight. Had a pot bigger than mine. He was just a mild-mannered guy -- the last person you would ever think would die a violent death."
Despite all his friends, Overstreet wasn't in a relationship. He filled that gap by doting affection on his poodle, Friday. He took the dog everywhere - even to the picket line during the Verizon strike.
"That was his joy, that little dog," Ann Overstreet said. "That was his company. He needed that."
He hung out at the gay bar because of the camaraderie, his mother, Ann Overstreet, has said. Overstreet in fact wasn't a drinker -- it was the socializing that brought him to the cafe on a semi-regular basis. He never drank, but always smiled.
But that Friday night, a man who apparently hated his family name of Gay entered the Backstreet Cafe, a gay bar in Roanoke, and opened fire.
The 43-year-old man, closest to the gunman, took a bullet in his chest. He crumpled to the floor of the Backstreet Café -- Danny Lee Overstreet, the single gay man remembered by friends for his kindness and love of his family and pet dog, died at the scene from the gunshot wound.
Mother and son ran errands and went shopping regularly -- just the week before they went for furnishings for Ann Overstreet's new home. They were supposed to go shopping on the following day, and Overstreet was scheduled for jury duty in October.
Danny's mother, Ann Overstreet, was awakened by a friend of Danny's ringing her doorbell about 1 a.m. She was told "Hurry up, get your clothes."
There was no other explanation.
"I was thinking, what happened? A car accident?" Ann Overstreet recalled. "But nothing like this. I cannot believe what happened."
"He lived his life as normal as people can. It feels like he's going to get out of the car and walk up the steps," Darlene Overstreet said. When she heard her brother had been shot, Darlene went to the bar and waited. "So he wouldn't be alone, lying on the floor," she said.
She recalled advice she had given Danny in the past. "Never leave your back to the door," she implored. "People are crazy. They've lost their minds."
We received this e-mail:
From: Niki013@webtv.net (Misty Overstreet)
Date: Mon, 30 Dec 2002 00:30:10 -0500 (EST)
My name is Misty Overstreet... and I would like to thank you for adding my beloved uncle, friend, and companion to your web page. It has not been easy for myself or my family in the two years since Danny past. But it is uplifting to know others still care. Danny was a wonderful man, who instilled in me the understanding for the need for equality for all people, and this page is truly representative of his life and message.
It is truly a beautiful effort you both have put forth. Through efforts such as this, one day we may live in a world were hate crimes are a distant memory of the past, where Danny, and the many others, will be remembered as vessels for legislation, and a lesson for the American society.
God bless you all,
Misty Overstreet, student and activist.