Andres Leighton / AP
EL PASO, Texas – The man who acquired worldwide affection and support after his wife was killed in a mass shooting in the border town of El Paso with Texas Friday was remembered as kind and thoughtful — and haunted by the loss of the woman he loved.
Dozens of people attended the memorial service for 63-year-old Antonio Basco, who died on August 14, just over two years after his wife, Margie Reckard, was killed by a lone attacker, along with 22 others, authorities say targeted Latin Americans in an attack that stunned the United States and Mexico.
Reckard’s funeral in August 2019 gathered thousands of people from faraway Arizona and California and across the border into Mexico, after Basco announced he was alone and almost had no family left and invited the world to join him in remembering his companion of 22 years. Several present ever met Reckard.
Flowers were pouring in, and the SUV was given as a gift to Basco, who was modestly earning money from car washing and other strange jobs. On the day of his wife’s funeral, a crowd of strangers stood in a line wrapped around the block to pay their respects.
Basco – a tough, worn-out man – hugged one visitor after another for several hours, arms outstretched.
It was raw and full of emotions at the 22nd funeral after the attack. The final victim would die from his injuries nine months later.
Andres Leighton / AP
A funeral on Friday in the middle of another pandemic attracted visitors to the cavernous chapel. Among them were a hospital worker who took care of Basco in his last days and a retired military veteran who liked Basca without ever meeting him.
Several are associated with Basco through the tragedy of his wife’s death.
Jose Luis Ozuna, a local retiree, said he and his wife met Basco at an impromptu memorial to the victims of the August 3, 2019 shooting and that Basco left an impression. Ozuna said Basco always put others ahead of him.
So the last time Ozuna saw Basca, who was in tears as he struggled to cash a $ 300 check without an ID, Ozuna said he was a co-owner of the withdrawal.
“We had a really good relationship. He was a very kind person,” Ozuna said. “We lost track of him because he lost his phone.”
Adria Gonzalez, a native of El Paso who was in Walmart during the attack, said she saw Basca deteriorate mentally and physically in the months after his wife’s funeral, amid struggles with alcohol.
Basco was arrested and imprisoned in late 2019 for driving under the influence of alcohol.
“He said he missed his wife,” Gonzalez said, “and he wasn’t the same.”
Judith Quinones, a hospital worker, said Basca is regularly visited by friends because his health has failed, but also that he is haunted by loneliness without a wife.
“He wished his wife wasn’t dead. He didn’t want to die this way,” Quinones said.
Basco passed away after months of battling cancer after a late diagnosis, says Roberto Sanchez, a local lawyer who runs his estate.
Sanchez described Basca as a wanderer who was born and raised in Louisiana before embarking on an unmarked journey.
“I think I’d probably call him Jack Kerouac today,” Sanchez said, referring to the author of the beatnik who wrote the classic novel “Journey”. “He would go from town to town looking for a job. When he found the love of his life, then he made El Paso his home.”
Pastor Jackie Johnson called Basca a free spirit and drove out the spiritual: “There will be no more weeping and lamentation.”
Andres Leighton / AP
“He didn’t let anyone 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 pews in the chapel, video monitors flashed images of crowded funeral services in 2019 for Reckard and spacious memorials along the roads to the victims of the shooting.
Basco experienced the dedication of a permanent memorial to the victims – a plaque and a metal tower that evokes a candle standing in front of the store where the attack took place.
The accused man to carry out the attack, Patrick Wood Crusius faces state charges of murdering capital and more than 90 federal counts of hate crimes and firearms.
The shooting happened on a busy weekend in Walmart that is usually popular with buyers from Mexico and the United States.
Authorities say Crusius aimed to intimidate Latinos to leave the United States, driving from his home near Dallas to target Mexicans after he posted a racist background on the Internet. Crusius pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers said their client had been diagnosed with a mental disability.