Debbie "Sunshine" McKay, 42, of Biloxi earned her nickname because of her perpetually sunny disposition.
"She was a great person. Always in a great mood," said her friend Carlos "Chico" Leal of Ocean Springs. "She was always happy. Always there for people. I'm disabled, and she hung around to take care of me."
McKay's sunny disposition, however, belied her own personal troubles. She had suffered with cancer for a number of years, but Leal said she had just learned days before Katrina that she was in remission.
"She was beating it," Leal said. "Last time she talked to the health department, they told her it was cleared up."
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Leal said McKay was a tall, dishwater blonde with yellowish cat eyes, and she was proud of her American Indian heritage.
Her brother Kaylon McKay of Clarendon, Texas, said she was born in Amarillo, Texas, and she lived up to her nickname.
"She was an outgoing person, do anything to help anybody," Kaylon said. "She didn't have any enemies, everybody was her friend."
Leal said he tried to persuade Sunshine to go with him to Stone County, and Kaylon said he urged her to come to Texas before Katrina, but she chose to ride it out with a friend at the Tivoli Hotel in Biloxi --- a decision that took her life.