When 63-year-old Margie Reckard was killed by a gunman who opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month, Antonio Basco lost his entire world. So, as the man who felt so alone planned her funeral, he invited the world to join him in remembering his companion of 22 years.
Since then, condolences and orders for flowers have poured in. When her funeral is held Friday evening in El Paso, an overflow crowd is expected.
"He felt like he was going to kind of just be by himself with this whole thing but it's not so — it's going to be amazing," Perches Funeral Homes director Harrison Johnson told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Johnson, who is also a pastor, will speak at the service, which was moved from one of their funeral homes to La Paz Faith Memorial & Spiritual Center to accommodate the crowd. He said vocalists and musicians have also volunteered to help, including a mariachi band. The public is also welcome at Reckard's burial Saturday morning.
Reckard had children from a previous marriage who are traveling from out of town to the funeral, Johnson said. But he said that for Basco, 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," Johnson said.
On Tuesday, Perches posted on Facebook a photo of a bereft Basco kneeling by a candlelight memorial. The post welcomed anyone to attend Reckard's funeral and soon drew thousands of comments and shares. Among them was Kelly Barton, 35, of Tyler, Texas. "I just wanted him to know that he wasn't alone in it," she told the AP.
Lisa Cano, 48, posted that she was sending prayers from California. Cano, who is from El Paso but now lives in Los Angeles, also sent flowers.
"It's good to be able to be involved and be there emotionally or spiritually for the people who are suffering. It's just giving us something to do — we want to do something," she told the AP.
Perches is among local funeral homes offering free services for the 22 people killed. In the days after the shooting, Basco told El Paso television station KFOX that Reckard's kindness and selflessness was incomparable. "When I met her she was an angel and she still is," Basco said.
Her son, Harry Dean Reckard, told The New York Times that when he and his brother and sister were children, the family didn't 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 Harry Dean Reckard, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska.
He said that after his father died in 1995, his mother began a relationship with 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."
Johnson said that Basco is "amazed" and "overwhelmed" with the outreach. "He's very appreciative, just so very appreciative to everybody's well-wishing and concerns," he said.