When his wife was killed in the El Paso, Texas, shooting this month, Antonio Basco lost not only his spouse of 22 years, but also his only relative.
With no other family, Basco told a funeral home that he wanted to invite the public to attend the visitation and prayer service on Friday for his wife, Margie Reckard. The response has been overwhelming.
Less than 24 hours after Perches Funeral Homes wrote on Facebook that Basco "welcomes anyone to attend" the service, more than 50 people have called to order flower arrangements, said Jorge Ortiz, general manager of the funeral home.
The flowers and cards, as well as online tributes, have poured in from across the country. Reckard, 63, was one of 22 people killed in the shooting at a Walmart on Aug. 3, and the story of El Paso rallying around Basco is one of many to inspire an outpouring of compassion in the aftermath of the attack. There were the parents who died protecting their 2-month-old baby, who survived; there was the soccer team that hosted a vigil for their 15-year-old teammate who was killed; there were the Walmart employees who helped shoppers flee and then helped each other deal with their trauma.
In the days after the massacre, Basco told KFOX-TV that when he met his wife, "she was an angel, and she still is."
He said her kindness could not be matched, and that one could see that she was "an awesome lady" simply by looking at how she acted. "We were going to live together and die together," he said.
Ortiz said the funeral home, in a strip mall in northeast El Paso, can hold 200 people, but is now expecting as many as 1,000 mourners for Reckard's visitation Friday evening.
In his 11 years with the funeral home, Wednesday's Facebook post was the first open invitation to a service that Ortiz could remember. Overflow crowds have been hosted in the past, he said, but never more than about 400 people.
The funeral home's Facebook post has been shared more than 10,000 times and elicited more than 1,000 comments. One woman wrote that she had sent flowers from Los Angeles. A man said he would attend the visitation and represent the hundreds of people who could not make it.
Harrison Johnson, the funeral director, told KVIA-TV that Basco had confided in him that he didn't really know what to do now that his wife was gone, but that he had been touched by the enormous response.
Reckard was born in Washington, according to her obituary, which on Wednesday was receiving tributes from strangers every few seconds.