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Hundreds honor El Paso shooting victim whose widower husband invited the entire city to her funeral

When 63-year-old Margie Reckard was killed by a gunman who opened fire at the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso 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 poured in; so many flowers in fact that hundreds of them will be transported over the weekend from the church in a 22-hearse procession to the makeshift memorial behind the Walmart store.

As prayer services were held Friday evening at the La Paz Faith Memorial & Spiritual Center in central El Paso, an overflow crowd was on hand. All 400 seats were filled and people were lined up for several blocks outside; funeral home staff urged attendees to be patient as people began rotating in and out of the service amid the scorching heat. (Watch the entire service by clicking on the video player below.)

Los Angeles resident Jordan Ballard was among the hundreds of strangers who braved 100-degree heat to pay their respects. When she read that Reckard had few relatives and the public was invited to her funeral, the 38-year-old bought a plane ticket and flew to El Paso to honor the woman she had never met.

“His story moved me,” she said of Basco’s public welcome for anyone to attend.

“He felt like he was going to kind of just be by himself with this whole thing but it’s not so — it’s amazing,” Perches Funeral Homes director Harrison Johnson said.

While well-wishers waited, 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,” Basco said, before breaking down.

As the line swelled, Basco came back out to thank attendees personally for coming. People crowded around to hug and touch him. Basco appeared overwhelmed that strangers were now running toward 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.

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

Johnson, who is also a pastor, spoke at the service, which was moved from one of their funeral homes to La Paz Faith to accommodate the crowd.

“Thank you for allowing us to go through this process, for inviting us in. We thank you Tony for inviting us. We would have never known that you needed us to be friends, but look at all these friends you have,” Johnson said during the service to massive applause from the crowd inside the church.

Vocalists and musicians also volunteered to perform in the service, including a mariachi band. The public was also welcome to attend Reckard’s burial on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Restlawn Cemetery.

Reckard had children from a previous marriage who traveled from out of town to attend the funeral. But Johnson 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.

Earlier in the week, 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 said.

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 sad.

Perches is among local funeral homes offering free services for the 22 people killed. In the days after the shooting, Basco said that Reckard’s kindness and selflessness was incomparable. “When I met her she was an angel and she still is,” he said.

Her son, Harry Dean Reckard, said 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.”

Basco was “amazed” and “overwhelmed” with the outreach. “He’s very appreciative, just so very appreciative to everybody’s well-wishing and concerns,” Johnson added.

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