Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
EL PASO – Hundreds of people attended the funeral of a woman they didn’t know, a victim killed in a mass shooting in a Walmart, after they learned that the woman’s husband, Antonio Basco, was left to grieve alone.
Basco arrived at the wake for his wife, Margie Reckard, to find a line outside the door and people eager to give him a hug. Others chanted, “Viva Margie! Viva El Paso!” An emotional Basco walked through the crowd. “I may not get to all of you, but you all get a hug,” he said. “I never thought I’d see so much love.”
Anthony, N.M., resident Susie Raucho was among the standing room-only crowd inside.
“My heart hurts for you,” Raucho told Basco. “And you thought you were alone.”
“After the mass shooting, this has restored my faith in humanity,” said Elizabeth Cordova, assistant funeral director at Perches Funeral Homes, which donated its services to victims.
Reckard was among those killed in the Aug. 3 attack at a busy Walmart.
Her widower spends every morning at the makeshift memorial, where 22 crosses represent the victims. He has been seen alone kneeling, praying and at times crying at the white cross bearing his 63-year-old wife’s name.
Basco, 61, a quiet man of few words, told CNN, “We had wonderful years, the best years of my life.”
They met in Omaha and moved around a lot before settling in El Paso, according to Perches Funeral Homes.
The outpouring of support for Basco came after the funeral home posted a Facebook message on his behalf that read: “Mr. Antonio Basco was married for 22 yrs to his wife Margie Reckard. He had no other family. He welcomes anyone to attend his wife’s services.”
Reckard’s two sons and a granddaughter traveled from Nebraska for her funeral.
Perches had planned to hold the visitation in a chapel with a capacity for 250 guests, but so many people responded to the open invitation that the services were moved to a space that can accommodate 500. The funeral home expected at least 1,000 people to attend and made arrangements for an overflow crowd outside waiting to pay their respects.
The El Paso FBI Division sent agents and “victim service specialists” to the funeral.
“As part of this community, we won’t let anyone so severely hurt by this tragedy go through this alone,” FBI El Paso tweeted Thursday. “Mr. (Antonio) Basco, we stand with you.”
Cordova said she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support as people from across the region were expected at the funeral.
“The response of the two Mexicos, New Mexico and Mexico, has been beautiful. This is a time when our region comes together in a very beautiful, generous way,” she said.
Strangers from across the U.S. and other countries have expressed condolences and sent more than a thousand flower arrangements for Reckard with messages from as far away as England, Africa and Australia.
“It’s people worldwide,” Cordova said.
Visitors from other cities at the makeshift memorial outside the Walmart on Friday said they had heard about the widower and seen stories about him mourning alone.
“In times of tragedy, people step up,” said Scott Sliver, his voice cracking. “How can your heart not go out to a guy who lost his wife of 22 years?”
Sliver lives in Dayton, Ohio – the scene of a mass shooting the same weekend of the El Paso massacre.
“The shootings were within 24 hours of each other,” he said.
Silver stopped to pay his respects at the El Paso memorial while driving from Arizona to Texas to visit his daughters in those states. He left a sign at the memorial that combined images of two public art pieces painted on walls in El Paso and Dayton in memory of the victims.
Leon Duran, 32, flew from Denver on Friday morning to attend Reckard’s funeral.
“It hit my heart, so I decided to come out here on a whim, Duran said while standing before the white crosses, piles of flowers and other mementos left for the victims. “I’ve never been in El Paso in my life. I don’t know one person here. This is my first stop.”
Duran was flying back home the same evening and hoped to see Basco at the funeral service before heading to the airport.
“If I can give him a hug and that’s it, I can be on my way,” he said. “That’s my intent.”