Strangers Answer Call to Attend Funeral for El Paso Shooting Victim
Without any family of his own, Tony Basco feared he would be the only person attending his wife's funeral service, so he invited the public to attend.
Within 24 hours, the Perches Funeral Home received 300 phone calls for Friday's visitation and funeral service for Margie Reckard, a 53-year-old woman who was one of 22 people killed during a mass shooting at the El Paso Walmart on Aug. 3.
The response was bigger than expected and caused officials to move the services from the 200-seat funeral home to La Paz Faith Center, a bigger venue that seats up to 500 people.
"The response has been overwhelming," Perches funeral director Harrison Johnson tells PEOPLE. "I've never seen anything like this — the community showing support and love for somebody they don't even know."
As the news of Basco's request began to spread through city, Anthony Tomasheski, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of El Paso, tells PEOPLE he didn't hesitate about making plans to attend.
"I couldn't imagine it, losing his wife and sitting alone," he says. "People say she had no family, but actually she has a very rich family, all of El Paso is her family."
Basco and Reckard were married for more than 22 years, according to reports. While she had three children from a previous relationship, the couple did not have any children of their own. For more than two decades, the pair were inseparable.
"When we first met, that feeling came to each one of us, to each other, and we've been together ever since," Basco told local TV station KFOX14. "We were gonna live together and die together, that was our plan."
On Aug. 3, Reckard decided to visit Walmart to do some shopping when a shooter entered the store, killed 22 people and injured 24 more. Basco told funeral director Johnson that he wishes he had been with his wife.
"He's still cries when he talks about her," Johnson says. "Ms. Margie did everything for him. She was his wife, his business manager, his confidant, and his friend."
For those who live in El Paso, the outpouring of support is not surprising. Andy Farias, who was born and raised in El Paso, says he's glad everyone has been able to witness the city's warmth and generous spirit.
When he heard Basco's heartbreaking story, he knew his hometown would rise to the occasion.
"As a community, everyone is responding with an open heart to comfort Margie's husband," Farias tells PEOPLE. "The idea that anyone would be left alone in the midst of this horrific tragedy is beyond us. We can be there for someone who doesn't have a shoulder to lean on during this time."
The service will be from 6-10 p.m. Friday at the La Paz Faith Center in El Paso. The funeral will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at Restlawn Cemetery. Additional details can be found on their Facebook page.