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Friday 20 September 2019

Hundreds attend funeral of El Paso victim after public invited

Antonio Basco had said anyone was welcome to attend the funeral.

People offer condolences to Antonio Basco, the companion of Margie Reckard (Jorge Salgado/AP)
People offer condolences to Antonio Basco, the companion of Margie Reckard (Jorge Salgado/AP)

By Jamie Stengle and Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A crowd of strangers has said goodbye to one of the victims of the El Paso massacre after it was revealed she only had a few relatives to attend the service.

Her longtime companion had said he felt alone and invited the public to her funeral.

Hundreds of well-wishers gathered at a cemetery in El Paso on Saturday to support Antonio Basco as he buried 63-year-old Margie Reckard, his companion of 22 years.

Mr Basco made international news after he told reporters he had almost no family members left and felt he was going to say goodbye to Ms Reckard alone.

Ms Reckard was killed by a gunman who opened fire during a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, this month.

The funeral home said more than 3,000 people showed up to pay their respects to a woman they had never met.

“I arrived here this morning,” said Jordan Ballard, 38, who lived in New York City during the terror attacks of September 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.

Vocalists 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 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,” Mr Basco said, before breaking down.

As the line swelled, Mr Basco 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.

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Mourners place their hands on the back of Dean Reckard, son of Margie Reckard (Jorge Salgado/AP)

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.

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

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 in the scorching heat.

Ms Reckard had children from a previous marriage who had travelled to the funeral.

But Mr Johnson said that for Mr Basco, Ms Reckard was “his life, his soul mate, his best friend”.

On Tuesday, a post on Facebook showed 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.

Her son, Harry Dean Reckard, told The New York Times that when he and 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.

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 Parkinson’s disease, “was loved by many”.

PA Media

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