Things That Matter

An El Paso Widower Made A Heartbreaking Plea For Strangers To Attend His Wife’s Funeral Because She Was His Only Family

The community of El Paso continues to mourn the loss of the victims from the massacre of nearly two weeks ago. But it’s not just the El Paso community that is in mourning, much of the nation (and, in fact, world) is mourning right there alongside El Paso. 

And thanks to one man’s heartbreaking tragedy, all of us are feeling the sorrows of El Paso. 

This man lost his wife in the El Paso Massacre and now he says he has no family left.

Antonio Basco had been sleeping on the pavement next to his wife’s new cross for nearly a week. The 61-year-old, who goes by Tony, isn’t sure what else to do. He’s been waking up next to Margie Reckard every morning since he met her 22 years ago in Omaha, Nebraska. “She was my world,” he said.

Basco and his wife, Margie Reckard, 63, met 22 years ago and quickly became inseparable. She became the love of his life and his only living relative, he said.

Upon news of the shooting at Walmart, 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 Sunday 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.

To help celebrate his late wife’s memory, Antonio invited the whole community to her funeral.

When faced with the overwhelming task of planning his wife’s funeral, Basco realized that he didn’t really have anyone to invite. He decided to ask everyone, Harrison Johnson, the director of Perches Funeral Homes, told BuzzFeed News. So on Tuesday, the funeral home’s Facebook page posted details for the event and invited anyone to the service.

Since then, so many people have vowed to attend that the home said Wednesday night that it was moving the service to a larger venue.

“It’s going to be full,” Basco chuckled. “Makes me feel wonderful.”

Feeling this man’s grief, the community of El Paso rallied around him and vowed to attend the funeral.

The Facebook post and photo of Basco leaning over rows of glowing candles in front of his wife’s cross has now gone viral. More than 11,000 accounts have shared it, and scores of people from all over the US have left comments.

“We have people calling saying they’re flying in from all over — New Mexico, California, Nevada — and asking how to get here,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be an amazing turnout.”

Even people from as far as LA, New York, and even London, were finding ways to support this man in his time of need.

People from all over the world were tweeting their support. Many said they had sent flowers to the funeral home while some were flat out planning on flying into El Paso to attend the funeral.

And papers from the UK to Australia and across the US covered the man’s heartbreaking tragedy.

One woman on Twitter shared that she couldn’t make the service but had sent flowers to the funeral home instead.

In fact, more than 50 people have sent flowers to the funeral home and dozens more have sent cards and offered to help pay for the services.

Even Beto O’Rourke, who is an El Paso native, tweeted his support of Antonio.

The native of El Paso, who is also running for president, retweeted a news story about Antonio encouraging the public to show up and offer their support to the widower.

So many people are planning on attending his wife’s service, that the funeral home has had to change the location to a larger venue.

So many people have vowed to attend, the funeral director said, that the home said Wednesday night that it was moving the service to a larger venue. The chapel can hold about 250 worshippers, Johnson said, but they’re expecting “triple that.”

“I’ve been in this industry for 35 years. Never seen a funeral of this magnitude for a normal person, for not a high-profile citizen,” he added.

Although Antonio may have lost his wife and with her his last family member, he’s gained an entirely new family in the city of El Paso.

Tony Dickey, a chaplain for Disaster and Victim Services International, told CNN that 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.”

A Latina Paid Off Her $102K Student Loan In 6 Years And She Honored The Moment With A Funeral

Things That Matter

A Latina Paid Off Her $102K Student Loan In 6 Years And She Honored The Moment With A Funeral

@mandy_velez / Twitter

“DING DONG MY LOANS ARE DEAD💀,” Mandy Velez, 28, announced to her friends and family on social media. “It is with immense pleasure that I announce the death of my student loans. On August 2, 2019, after 6 years, I finally killed them. It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight.” Velez shared the extent to which she penny-pinched, side-hustled, and made advances in her full-time career. That might mean that Velez put away an average of $17k every year for the last six years while working and living in New York City. The real story is far more impressive.

To celebrate, Velez asked her childhood friend, Mike Arrison, to bring his photography gear and meet her at a cemetery. She wore a long, black tulle skirt, and a black lace crop top. Her prop was four $.80 silver foil balloons that read: 102k. She even pulled off a viral, low-budget funeral for her student loan debt.

“I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills,” Mandy Velez proudly shared.

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

The good news is that Velez is holding her strategy close to the chest. She opened up about her whole journey on Instagram. “It began in 2013, when I graduated with a total of 75K in student loans,” she shared. “I moved to New York, but I made sure to pay more than the minimums, which totaled to $1K a month. It was like another rent. I took jobs not based on what I really wanted but what could help me survive. I did this for five years straight.”

At one point, Velez was laid off, but she still never missed a payment. 

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

“Even after a lay-off during this journey, I hustled like hell and never missed a payment,” she confessed. “It was more than most people can do, and I, a single, childless, able-bodied woman consider myself lucky. But still, I carried this burden alone. I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills.”

She savagely “killed the last 32k of debt in EIGHT months.”

Credit: mandyvel / Instagram

Velez felt like her life was “on hold” and reaching a breaking point. She wanted to do more with her money than pay off debt. She wanted a house and a family. That fueled a shocking final blow to her debt and paid off the last $32,000 in just eight months. It wasn’t easy.

Velez lived off a third of her monthly salary to save that $32k.

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

“Turns out, packing lunches and not taking Ubers can save you a ton,” she wrote in a caption. The rest of her story does sound like murder. “I worked my ass off at work and asked for raises, and got them. I worked three jobs at once, my day job and then side hustles. I walked dogs until my feet literally bled. In the cold. In the rain. In the heat. Nothing was beneath me. I babysat. I cat sat. I stayed up for 24 hours straight to make a few hundred bucks as a TV extra on shows they filmed overnight. I cut my food budget down to merely salad, eggs, chicken and rice,” she revealed. 

“I said “no”—my God I said no—,” she continued. “To making memories with my family and friends and prayed there would be other opportunities in the future. Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me.”

Velez thinks the system is rigged, and that America needs significant policy change to freely educate their citizens.

Credit: mandyvel / Instagram

“Lots of people will see my story and say, see if she could do it, so can you. But I don’t think that,” she said. She acknowledges that she was lucky in being able-bodied and healthy enough to miss entire nights of sleep and work three jobs. “Not everyone can do this,” she warns. Why? The game is rigged. “Only those who play know it,” she says.

Velez is sharing her story because she doesn’t “feel we student borrowers deserve the hardship that comes with these loans: high interest rates, sketchy providers, yearly tuition hikes, the list goes on.” She hopes that her story will inspire those who are in the game to murder their loans. She also hopes it better informs those who are considering playing. Finally, she wants you to vote for “policy that makes the system much more fair. Any little bit of action helps.”

Of course, what’s a celebratory funeral without endless gratitude to the Puerto Rican mami that supported her through it all?

Credit: mandyvel / Instagram

“To my mom who saved me from a year more of debt by encouraging me to go to a state school first,” she begins her Instagram tribute, “even though we sobbed together when the financial aid to Syracuse and Boston wasn’t enough. I’m sorry I gave you so much trouble. I am so grateful for your foresight. I love you always and forever. Thank you, everyone, for cheering me on.”

What’s next for Velez? Girl’s finally taking a much-needed vacation.

Credit: @mandy_velez / Twitter

First thing’s first. She has an emergency fund set aside. Next, she’ll set aside money for taxes for all the dog walking and other side gigs. Then, she’ll start saving money for a down payment on a house. Finalmente, Velez has her “Sights set on Sicily next year” and is taking recommendations. The cherry on top of a successful slaying and funeral? “A cool thing about paying off debt is now having that extra income for ME. And the things *I* want to save for. Not filling the pockets of predatory lenders with insanely high interest rates. Feels amazing.🖤”

Our deepest, gratifying condolences to you, Velez. Felicidades.

READ: Wells Fargo Is Being Accused Of Denying Loans To Undocumented Students

Mexican Communities Around The Country Are Honoring El Paso Victims With Día De Muertos Ofrendas

Things That Matter

Mexican Communities Around The Country Are Honoring El Paso Victims With Día De Muertos Ofrendas

ExploreNMMA / Instagram

Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead is November 2, and ofrendas are popping up all around the country to honor the El Paso shooting victims. The annual Mexican tradition is a time of reflection and celebration of lives lost. Each year ofrendas or altars are created with tokens, photos, and sentimental mementos of those who passed.

This year ofrendas all over the country will commemorate the 22 El Paso shooting victims who were killed in a targeted attack against the Latinx community on August 3, 2019. The incident occurred when a 21-year-old white male drove 11 hours to El Paso, Texas to shoot “Hispanics.” 

The man killed 22 and injured 26 patrons of a Walmart, 20 minutes after posting a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto to a social media website used by white supremacists. The shooter talked of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The rhetoric was not unfamiliar to anyone who has tuned into President Trump’s rallies where he once referred to Mexicans as rapists. 

The Latinx community is still healing and Dia de Muertos is a great opportunity to begin suturing up the wounds. 

The Mexican Cultural Insitute in Washington D.C.

The Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. will have an altar for El Paso victims during their Dia de Muertos celebration on November 2. The event will also include dance, music, food, and performances. 

Mexican artist Enrique Quiroz will create the altar that will honor the 22 people who were killed in the gruesome mass shooting. According to DCist, the altar will also include tributes to prominent Mexican icons that died in 2019 like humanitarian León Portilla, singer José José, and artist Francisco Toledo. 

The Mexic-Arte Museum in Texas altar will honor El Paso victims.

 The Mexic-Arte Museum has encouraged local residents to contribute photos, messages, and sentimental items to their altar. It has been on display since September 13 and will remain until November 24. Meanwhile, the museum puts on the city’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration on October 26. 

“The violence targeted our community,” Mario Villanueva, the museum’s marketing and events associate, told the Statesman. “As Mexic-Arte Museum, a safe space that amplifies Mexican American and Latino culture, it’s our duty to let the community know that we hear your pain.”

The ofrenda entitled “Ofrenda a Nuestra Comunidad Internacional de El Paso,” has had a positive response in the area with many offering to participate and provide items. 

“Some of them were hurting,” Villanueva said. “They just want to help in any way possible.”

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago

“Day of the Dead Xicágo is just getting started and more than 90 ofrendas are set up! This altar is fondly dedicated to Felipe Ruiz and Andrea Sebastian Arzate, who are remembered for being loving and caring grandparents. Come see more altars created by people of all walks of life and share in their heartfelt stories,” the museum wrote on Instagram. 

At the “Love Never Dies Ball,” on November 2, the National Museum’s ofrendas will feature El Paso victims as well children separated at the border and those who have died in ICE custody. The Chicago Latinx community has been outspoken about the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

“The motives behind the El Paso massacre were clearly directed at Latinos, and they were rooted in the damaging rhetoric that came into the national spotlight when Donald Trump began using words like ‘invasion’ and ‘drug dealers and rapists’ to describe immigrants crossing the southern border,” the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago advocacy organization, said in an August statement. 

Hip Latina reports that other Day of the Dead celebrations in Texas will take place at Houston Community College, University of Texas at El Paso and local churches. Each will honor the victims of the El Paso shooting. 

The El Paso Walmart will open its doors for a memorial. 

The El Paso Walmart where the shooting took place will reopen its doors on November 14. The store will not hold a celebration so much as a memorial for the victims. 

“This will not be a celebratory atmosphere or environment,” Todd Peterson, vice president of Walmart and regional general manager, told KERA news. “We’ll just simply open the doors.”

Peterson also unveiled a mockup of a permanent tribute sculpture that will be on the south side of the parking lot of the store. 

“The focal point…will be a grand candela,” Peterson said. “Twenty-two individual perforated aluminum arcs, grouped together into one, single 30-foot candela, symbolizing unity and emanating light into the sky.”

Family members and survivors of the shooting will be able to view the memorial privately before the public. The Cielo Vista Walmart has not opened its doors since the shooting on August 3. While they may not exactly be Dia de Muertos ofrendas community members have already created a makeshift memorial to the victims.