updated 10/07/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 10/06/2012 AT 6:00 PM ET
“I’m left cherishing his memories and carrying out his legacy,” Westerberg, also known by his stage name Manila Luzon, told PEOPLE on Thursday. “I was lucky enough to have time with him.”
Still, he says, losing the fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant is a struggle.
“I’m hanging in there, but it’s hard because I have to deal with more than just grieving someone so close,” he says. “I have to deal with telling everyone all the information. We’ve been together for such a long time, so it’s surreal because it just happened. At least I have a lot of support from friends and family, so that’s good.”
When Westerberg first met Ashley – also known by his stage name Sahara Davenport – at a local bar in his neighborhood, he instantly knew this was someone he’d be connected to for a long time.