El Paso shooting

Victim's funeral draws crowd after public invite

Mr Antonio Basco, husband of Ms Margie Reckard, being embraced by a visitor as he sat next to her coffin on Friday. Ms Reckard was among 22 killed during the Aug 3 shooting. Mourners standing in line outside La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Centre
Mourners standing in line outside La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Centre in El Paso, Texas, to pay their respects to shooting victim Margie Reckard on Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Antonio Basco, husband of Ms Margie Reckard, being embraced by a visitor as he sat next to her coffin on Friday. Ms Reckard was among 22 killed during the Aug 3 shooting. Mourners standing in line outside La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Centre
Mr Antonio Basco, husband of Ms Margie Reckard, being embraced by a visitor as he sat next to her coffin on Friday. Ms Reckard was among 22 killed during the Aug 3 shooting. PHOTO: REUTERS

Hundreds support husband who had thought he would be only one to say goodbye to her

EL PASO (Texas) • When Ms Jordan Ballard read that one of the victims of the El Paso massacre had few relatives and the public was invited to her funeral, the Los Angeles resident bought a plane ticket and flew to Texas to honour a woman she had never met.

She was one of hundreds of strangers who braved 38 deg C heat to pay their respects to 63-year-old Margie Reckard. Feeling heartbroken and alone after her death, Ms Reckard's companion of 22 years, Mr Antonio Basco, had welcomed anyone to attend.

"I arrived here this morning," said Ms Ballard, 38, who lived in New York City during the terror attacks of Sept 11, 2001. "His story moved me."

The service was moved from a funeral home to La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Centre to accommodate the crowd. Singers and musicians volunteered to help, including a mariachi band. Condolences and orders for flowers poured in.

"He felt like he was going to kind of just be by himself with this whole thing but it's not so," Perches Funeral Homes director Harrison Johnson said on Thursday of Mr Basco.

While well-wishers waited, Mr Basco arrived to people shouting blessings in English and Spanish. Before entering the funeral home, someone gave him a gift that appeared to be an El Paso T-shirt.

"I love y'all, man," he said, before breaking down. As the line swelled, he came back out to thank attendees personally for coming. People crowded around to hug and touch him. Mr Basco appeared overwhelmed that strangers were now running towards him to show love and offer condolences.

Moments later, mariachis walked through the crowd singing Amor Eterno, the 1984 ballad by the late Juan Gabriel that has become an anthem for El Paso following the shooting. Some attendees sang along. Others sobbed and got out of line.

 
 
 
 

Mr Jason Medina, 42, of El Paso, said he had to come. Wearing a black and red zoot suit, he stood quietly in line and waited for his chance to say goodbye to someone he never knew. "I know her now," he said. "We're all family, bro."

Mr Johnson, who is also a pastor, headed the service. Funeral home staff urged attendees to be patient as people began rotating in and out of the service amid scorching heat.

Ms Reckard had children from a previous marriage who travelled from out of town to the funeral. But Mr Johnson said that for Mr Basco, Ms Reckard was "his life, his soul mate, his best friend". The couple had a car wash business, he said.

"Probably some people have felt like Mr Tony in a time of death - they felt like they were alone and nobody was around," Mr Johnson said, referring to Mr Basco.

On Tuesday, funeral home Perches posted on Facebook a photo of a bereft Mr Basco kneeling by a candlelight memorial. The post welcomed anyone to attend Ms Reckard's funeral and soon drew thousands of comments and shares.

Perches is among local funeral homes offering free services for the 22 people killed. In the days after the Aug 3 shooting, Mr Basco told El Paso television station KFOX that his wife's kindness and selflessness was incomparable. "When I met her, she was an angel and she still is," Mr Basco said.

Her son, Mr Harry Dean Reckard, told The New York Times that when he, his brother and sister were children, the family did not have much money and frequently moved. He said his mother would sometimes work at fast-food restaurants or as a hotel housekeeper to add to what her husband earned as a truck driver.

"As a kid, I just remember her feeding us and trying to provide for us the best that she could," said Mr Harry Dean Reckard, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

He said that after his father died in 1995, his mother began a relationship with Mr Basco. The couple had moved to El Paso a few years ago. He said his mother, who had been battling Parkinson's disease, "was loved by many".

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline 'Victim's funeral draws crowd after public invite'. Print Edition | Subscribe