Enlarge this image
Images depicting Antonio Basco attending his wife funeral in 2019 are shown in a TV screen at a funeral home in El Paso on Friday. Basco, who drew worldwide sympathy and support after his wife for 22 years, Margie Reckard, was killed in the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart in 2019, died on Aug. 14.
Poll: Most Americans Want To See Congress Pass Gun Restrictions
El Paso Shooting: Hundreds Of Strangers Come To Mourn With Widower At Wife’s Funeral
Reckard’s August 2019 funeral drew thousands of people from as far away as Arizona and California and across the border in Mexico, after Basco announced that he was alone with almost no family left and invited the world to join him in remembering his companion of 22 years. Few in attendance had ever met Reckard.
Flowers poured in, and an SUV was donated to Basco, who made a modest living at washing cars and other odd jobs. The day of his wife’s funeral, a crowd of strangers stood in a line that wrapped around the block to pay their respects.
Basco — a wiry, weathered man — embraced one visitor after another with open arms for several hours.
It was a raw and loving outpouring of emotion at the 22nd funeral following the attack. A final victim would die of his injuries nine months later.
Enlarge this image
Jose Luis Ozuna and Leticia Bernal pay respect to their friend Antonio Basco during his funeral on Friday.
Stories Of El Paso Shooting Victims Show Acts Of Self-Sacrifice Amid Massacre
‘This Is Not Going To Be Easy’: El Paso Students Start School In Shooting’s Aftermath
Adria Gonzalez, an El Paso native who was inside the Walmart during the attack, said she saw Basco deteriorate mentally and physically in the months after his wife’s funeral, amid struggles with alcohol.
Basco was arrested and jailed in late 2019 for driving under the influence.
«He said he missed his wife,» Gonzalez said, «and he wasn’t the same.»
Judith Quinones, the hospice worker, said Basco was visited regularly by friends as his health failed but also was haunted by loneliness without his wife.
«He wished his wife wasn’t dead. He didn’t want to die this way,» Quinones said.
Basco passed away after a months-long struggle with cancer after a late diagnosis, according to Roberto Sanchez, a local lawyer handling his estate.
Sanchez described Basco as a wanderer who was born and raised in Louisiana before he set out on an unmapped journey.
«I think I’d probably call him the Jack Kerouac of nowadays,» said Sanchez, referring to the beatnik author who wrote the classic road trip novel «On the Road.» «He would go from city to city looking for employment. When he found the love of his life, that’s when he made El Paso his home.»
Pastor Jackie Johnson called Basco a free spirit and belted out a spiritual: «There will be no more weeping and no more wailing.»
Enlarge this image
Jose Luis Ozuna looks at pictures of his friend Antonio Basco.
«He didn’t let anybody tell him how he could move or where he could move, but he was a free spirit who respected people,» Johnson said.
High above the chapel pews, video monitors flashed images of the crammed 2019 funeral services for Reckard and sprawling roadside memorials to the shooting victims.
Basco lived to see the dedication of a permanent memorial to the victims — a plaque and metal tower evoking a candle that stands outside the store where the attack occurred.
The man accused of carrying out the attack, Patrick Wood Crusius, faces state capital murder charges and more than 90 federal hate-crime and firearms counts.
The shooting happened on a busy weekend day at a Walmart that is typically popular with shoppers from Mexico and the U.S.
Authorities say Crusius aimed to scare Latinos into leaving the United States, driving from his home near Dallas to target Mexicans after posting a racist screed online. Crusius has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers said their client has been diagnosed with mental disabilities.