Remembering Kim 'KJ' Morris

— -- TORRINGTON, Conn. -- One thing was clear at a vigil held for Kimberly "KJ" Morris on Tuesday: She loved to dance.

About 200 people gathered at Coe Memorial Park in Torrington, Connecticut, Morris' hometown, to mourn the loss of a former community member, friend and loved one. As Lady Gaga blared, they celebrated the joyous way she approached life.

Morris was among the 49 people killed June 12 in the mass shooting at Pulse, a popular gay club in Orlando, Florida. She was 37.

Called Kim and KJ by friends, Morris moved to Orlando from Hawaii a couple months ago to live near her mother and grandmother. She was a bouncer at the club. She previously lived in Massachusetts and grew up in Torrington. She played basketball and ran track while in high school. She loved MMA and always wore a smile.

"She was a bundle of fun," said Trisha Weinbach, one of Morris' high school basketball teammates. "It was grueling, going to practice and [putting in] blood, sweat and tears, but she always made it fun and joked around."

Morris also played basketball at Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut. While living in Massachusetts, she regularly performed in drag under the name Daddy K.

"She wasn't ashamed of who she was," said Jeanine Castings, who met Morris in college. "She was the life of the party."

Coryse Villarouel met Morris more than 20 years ago when they were teammates on the Torrington High School basketball team. The two bonded instantly because they were among the few women of color on the team.

"I never expected the extreme madness that goes on in this world to hit so close to home," Villarouel said. "I talked to my mom all day Sunday, never mentioning it, because that would make it real."

In the aftermath of the shooting, speculation about Morris' fate dominated the conversations of Villarouel and her friends on Sunday. Villarouel originally heard of Morris' death through text but didn't want to believe it.

"You never prepare yourself for that actual message that says 'Kim's gone,'" she said. "And still, a part of me needs to see the casket, needs to see her body. Maybe it's the last piece of closure that I need."

At the vigil, members of the Torrington community shared stories of Morris and their responses to the massacre. For all of them, the message about love conquering hate rang true. Although somber and devastated, community members sought to remember Morris for the upbeat soul she was.

Said Morris' former track teammate and one of the vigil's speakers, "Just keep dancing. Just keep smiling and dancing for Kim."