EL PASO, Texas - The response has been so great to an El Paso man's public invitation to the funeral for his 63-year-old wife who died in the Walmart shooting, that officials said late Wednesday the services were being moved to a larger venue to accommodate the anticipated crowd.
Antonio Basco, 61, said his wife of more than two decades, Marjorie Reckard, had been his only living relative. As a result, he had welcomed "anyone to attend his wife's services" on Friday and hundreds of people were expected to attend.
On Wednesday night, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar tweeted that "because of our beautiful community's overwhelming response, Ms. Reckard's services have been moved to a larger venue."
El Paso once again does her thing.— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) August 15, 2019
Because of our beautiful community's overwhelming response, Ms. Reckard's services have to be moved to a larger venue.
Her husband will receive a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in her honor. 🙏🏽❤️#ElPasoStrong https://t.co/e89dI657EJ
Perches Funeral Home, which was originally going to host the services at its northeast location, also posted an update indicating that Friday's 7 p.m. prayer service was being moved to its La Paz Faith central El Paso location at 1201 N. Piedras Street. And the funeral service will now be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Restlawn Cemetary at 8700 Dyer Street.
Jorge Ortiz, the general manager of Perches, said more than 60 people had already called to order flower arrangements.
For Basco, it's now been nearly two weeks since the El Paso massacre, and he continues to visit daily the makeshift memorial behind the Cielo Vista Walmart honoring his wife and the 21 others who were killed.
"I can't stay away from here," Basco said. "All I know is that my wife never hurt someone."
He would come and go at all hours of the day and has slept there at least one night.
He kneels in front of a white cross bearing his wife's name that is surrounded by candles and dozens of flowers. He prays for her and even talks to her.
Tony Dickey, a chaplain for Disaster and Victim Services International, said crowds of strangers have approached Basco with words of support, or simply to offer a hug.
"He was basically just mumbling to himself that he had no one anymore, that she was everything he had. He didn't know what he was going to do," Dickey said about the day he met Basco. "He kept repeating that he was going to be so alone now."
Dickey said he told Basco, "No, they are your family. El Paso is now your family."
'Every second, every breath... has been a wonderful life'
Basco said he and Reckard met 22 years ago and quickly became inseparable.
Basco had just quit riding rodeo in Omaha, Nebraska, when he met Reckard at a bar. She was originally from the Washington, D.C., area. Basco is from Louisiana.
He said Reckard had been smiling at him that night, but he was so shy he couldn't talk to her. At some point Basco finally approached her. What started as a drink and a friendly conversation turned into a dinner and later into their first time sharing breakfast.
"Me and my wife had a bond, a magnificent bond," Basco said. "I never felt anything like that in my life."
Soon, they hopped on a train together with nothing more than a backpack.
"Every second, every breath... has been a wonderful life," he said.
The couple traveled around the country until they eventually settled in El Paso. They took care of each other as they grew older and as Reckard began battling Parkinson's disease.
"We never went to bed mad at each other without saying good night or I'm sorry," he said. "We planned on living together and dying together."
Rico Duran, 22, an in-home care provider who had been working with the couple, said they'd spend their days watching old school cowboy movies or sometimes cruising around town in their blue SUV.
Reckard was really active, Duran said, and wouldn't ask for help, even though she had to use a walker to move around. Reckard and Basco were always smiling and striking up conversations even if there was a language barrier, Duran said.
"They have so much love for the Chicanos and overall the people in the city," Duran said. "They didn't know Spanish but they were always making an effort to communicate with Spanish speakers."
El Paso is becoming his family
Basco was doing maintenance on the SUV outside their home on Aug. 3 when Reckard left for Walmart. It was his wife's Saturday routine to go to the store near Cielo Vista Mall to shop for groceries, he said.
A gunman opened fire inside the store, taking the lives of 22 people and wounding at least two dozen. Reckard died in the largest massacre the city has seen.
Basco searched for Margie in local hospitals for hours, hoping to reunite with her, but the medical staff wouldn't tell him anything. It wasn't until the next day that law enforcement officers contacted Basco and "told me that my wife had been murdered," he said.
His wife, who had been his angel, his partner and, without a doubt, the love of his life was not returning home.
"I don't need anything," he said. "I need her and I keep begging her to come back but I know it's impossible."
Dozens of people in El Paso have joined him at the memorial for days. A local journalist set up a GoFundMe page for him and was making sure he would get the funds.
As his wife's funeral approaches, Basco, who is still wearing his blue Ford Motor cap and his silver wedding band, said he's thankful for all the families and individuals who've reached out to him.
"If it wasn't for all of these people, I don't know how I would make it," Basco said.
On Wednesday, Basco said he was not ready to learn how to live by himself. He was planning to pay a few house bills, feed his cat, Princess, and come back once again to water the flowers at the makeshift memorial and give his wife's cross another kiss.