EL PASO, Texas – A man who won sympathy and support around the world after his wife was killed in a mass shooting in El Paso, a Texas border town, is remembered as kind and caring on Friday – and haunted by the loss of the woman he loved.
A few dozen people attended memorial services for Antonio Basco, 63, who died on August 14, just over two years after his wife, Margie Reckard, was shot and killed along with 22 others by a sniper who said authorities, targeted Latinos in an attack that stunned the United States and Mexico.
Reckard’s funeral in August 2019 drew thousands from as far away as Arizona and California and across the border in Mexico, after Basco announced he was alone with almost none left. family and invited the world to join him in remembering his 22-year-old companion. Few of those present had already met Reckard.
Flowers poured in and an SUV was given to Basco, who made a modest living by washing cars and other odd jobs. On the day of his wife’s funeral, a crowd of strangers lined up around the block to pay their respects.
Basco – a nervous and thirsty man – kissed visitor after visitor with open arms for several hours.
It was a wave of raw and loving emotion during the 22 funerals that followed the attack. A final victim will die of his injuries nine months later.
Friday’s funeral amid a resurgent pandemic drew a trickle of visitors to a cavernous chapel. They included a hospice worker who looked after Basco in his dying days and a retired army veteran who loved Basco but never met him.
Several were linked to Basco through the tragedy of his wife’s death.
Jose Luis Ozuna, a local retiree, said he and his wife met Basco at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the August 3, 2019 shooting and that Basco made a strong impression. Ozuna said Basco always puts others first.
So, the last time Ozuna saw Basco, who was in tears as he struggled to cash a $ 300 check without ID, Ozuna said he co-signed the withdrawal.
“We had a very good bond. He was a very loving person, ”said Ozuna. “We lost track of him because he lost his phone.”
Adria Gonzalez, from El Paso who was inside Walmart during the attack, said she saw Basco deteriorate mentally and physically in the months following his wife’s funeral, amid problems with ‘alcohol.
Basco was arrested and jailed in late 2019 for impaired driving.
“He said he missed his wife,” Gonzalez said, “and he wasn’t the same anymore.”
Hospice worker Judith Quinones said Basco was regularly visited by friends as his health collapsed, but was also haunted by loneliness without his wife.
“He wished his wife hadn’t died. He didn’t want to die this way, ”Quinones said.
Basco died after a months-long battle 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 embarking on a mapless journey.
“I think I would probably call him the Jack Kerouac of today,” said Sanchez, referring to the beatnik author who wrote the classic road trip novel “On the Road”. “He went from town to town looking for a job. 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 sang a spiritual: “There will be no more weeping and lamenting.”
“He didn’t let anyone tell him how he could get around or where he could move, but he was a free spirit who respected people,” Johnson said.
Above the chapel benches, video monitors projected footage of the crowded 2019 funeral services for Reckard and the sprawling roadside memorials to the victims of the shooting.
Basco lived to see the dedication of a permanent memorial to the victims – a metal plaque and tower reminiscent of a candle that sits outside the store where the attack took place.
The man accused of carrying out the attack, Patrick Wood Crusius, faces state capital murder charges and more than 90 federal counts of hate crimes and firearms.
The shooting took place on a busy weekend day at a Walmart that is generally popular with shoppers in Mexico and the United States.
Authorities say Crusius aimed to scare Latinos into leaving the United States, by driving from his home near Dallas to target Mexicans after posting a racist screed online. Crusius pleaded not guilty and his lawyers said their client was diagnosed with a mental disability.