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(CNN) Instead of saying "I do" together, starting a family together or growing old together, Christopher "Drew" Leinonen and Juan Guerrero will lay together as their families say their final goodbyes.

"The last 36 hours have been sobering.  I don't know that I knew any of the victims, but am sure there will only be one degree of separation between us.  I was so thankful that the City of Miami Beach was quick to act in putting together last night's beautiful vigil.  Now, our community must use this moment to get the federal government to completely lift the ban on gay men donating blood.  And we must sadly get ready for dozens of funerals for dozens of young people."

(CNN) Brenda Lee Marquez McCool had already fought the battle of her life -- twice.

One of the benefits of living in a small town is that fellow citizens become as close, if not closer than family. So, when a friend or neighbor or someone who has simply always been there suddenly disappears their absence is felt immediately, painfully, profoundly. 

Disappearance of course is an easier way to describe a death in the family. On March 15, longtime Key West resident Gregory R. McGrady died suddenly due to complications from a kidney infection. He was 51.

Of course every death is tragic but Gregg “GGG” McGrady’s passing has shaken Key West society, particularly a network of locals who, along with Gregg, have been central to at least two decades of community building, philanthropy and fun.

The news of McGrady’s passing is still reverberating, not quite sinking in. Not just its suddenness (after all, many saw Gregg dancing energetically at a Sunday tea dance just days before). What’s harder to fathom for those who have lived here for some time is the thought of Key West without him, without his mischievous eyes, his very particular personality.

Gregg McGrady hailed from Massachusetts. With a career in the U.S. Army and in merchandising behind him he followed one of his three brothers to this tiny tropical tourist spot on the map, making it home in 1995.

Some called McGrady a renaissance man, others have pointed out a tireless generosity with friends as they pursued challenging goals that he had some familiarity with.

A particularly common refrain on Facebook and in the bars and restaurants up and down Duval Street was Gregg’s instinct and ability to connect adjacent networks of people, distinct circles of activity in order to strengthen community. The local Arts scene, the Florida Keys SPCA, AIDS Help as well as many high and low profile fundraisers all benefitted from this charming, accessible man’s skill at making things happen.

McGrady’s most indelible contribution to this Island City that he loved so much is the vivid 1.25-mile-long Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag that unfurled along Duval Street in 2003, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Legend has it McGrady left the popular 801 Bar wondering how to make Key West a more emphatic LGBT destination. Perhaps it was the fresh air, perhaps it was his formidable marketing ability, perhaps it was something else. Regardless, a permanent symbol for Key West was borne.

For all intents and purposes McGrady had retired from professional life, splitting his time between Hawaii, Illinois and Key West with John Nolte, his partner of seven years. Despite the love that is universally felt for Gregg most admit that he could be a handful, a bit of a wild child, quickly adding that he had settled into a very enjoyable and rewarding life, one where making art, making friends and dancing seemed to be of the highest priority.

A memorial for Gregg McGrady is tentatively planned for April 24 at Aqua nightclub on Duval Street.

A Facebook page for the event will be created once details are final. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Gregg’s name to AIDS Help or the Florida Keys SPCA