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Witness to the El Paso Strong Weekend
Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death, Funeral Expert Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death, Funeral Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Albuquerque , NM
Tuesday, August 20, 2019


The mass shooting that took place in El Paso August 3, 2019resulted in a most unique outpouring of public grief two weeks later. I amhonored to have witnessed and participated in this remarkable series of events.

Salvador (Sal) Perches is CEO of Perches Funeral Homes in ElPaso, Texas, Juarez, Mexico and Las Cruces, New Mexico. He also started the ElPaso Funeral Museum at one of his funeral home locations on the west side oftown. Once a month, he holds a community outreach and education event at themuseum/funeral home.

Months earlier, we had agreed to bring a one-day Before I Die event there on August 17. But the mass shooting at a WalMart that killed 22 people changed our plans. We still went ahead with the Before I Die seminar, but we changed some of the presentations and included a session on “Lessons on Grief and Mourning in Cartoons.”

Rise Again El Paso

Sal also asked if I could provide an uplifting message tothe hurting community at a special event on Friday, August 16. After thinkingabout it overnight, the answer came.

I had done a speech years earlier called Rise Again. Thetheme of resiliency is based on the refrain of the song “The Mary Ellen Carter”by Canadian songwriter/singer Stan Rogers. I revisited that speech and tailoredthe content to the situation in El Paso.

Here is video of the speech, Rise Again, recorded in 2013. The Rise Again El Paso speech will be posted after the video is prepared.

On the noon news program on KVIA-TV Channel 7 in El Paso, Sal Perches and Gail Rubin were interviewed about the Rise Again El Paso community event, the upcoming visitation for Margie Reckard, and the procession of 22 hearses that will take all of the flowers to the public memorial at the Walmart. Broadcast on August 16, 2019. Click here to view the video, or the screen shot below.

Noon news interview on August 16, 2019 with Salvador Perches and Gail Rubin.

The Call to the Public

The last of the 22 funerals for the shooting victims was forMargie Reckard. Her husband Antonio Basco had no family, so he issued aninvitation for the public to attend Margie’s funeral. Perches Funeral Home shareda post on social media, and the message went viral. People from across the USplanned to come to El Paso for Margie Reckard’s visitation and funeral.

Flower arrangements started pouring in from across the USand around the world: Japan, New Zealand, South Africa. The funeral home movedthe event to their largest available facility, the La Paz Faith Center. Thehistoric church seats 350 in the main sanctuary.

Gail Rubin speaks at La Paz Faith Center surrounded by 1,000 flower arrangements.

At first, the estimated count of flower arrangements was300. The phone kept ringing at the funeral home, and the delivery trucks justkept coming. Bouquets, vases, standing arrangements, elaborate floral sprays,and other flower arrangements continued to be delivered. The count grew to 500,then 1,000.

The front of the sanctuary was covered in flowers, includingon top of the wall of cremation niches at the back of the raised dais. Floralstands lined one side of the room, and arrangements filled the window alcoves,the lobby, a small chapel, and the table next to the restrooms. Smallerbouquets were placed on the stairs to the choir loft where news cameras werestationed, and a variety of arrangements were positioned outside next to the doorsof the church.

The visitation was announced for 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Thesanctuary filled up by 5:00 p.m. and a line formed outside in 99-degree heat.By 7:00 p.m. the line wrapped around the entire block where the church waslocated, plus an additional block adjacent to the church.

Motorcycle groups set up a line of members standing guardwith American flags. People signed a guest register as they waited in line. Anestimated 3,000 people came through over the course of the evening, which didnot end until after 11:00 p.m.

Flag guard at La Paz Faith Center during the visitation for Margie Reckard.

When Antonio Basco arrived, he greeted people in lineoutside the La Paz Faith Center. He made his way through the center aisle ofthe sanctuary toward his wife’s casket. People stopped him for hugs, condolences,and words of strength for El Paso.

People wore T-shirts proclaiming “El Paso Strong.” The hashtag #ElPasoStrong was all over social media.

The Floral Tribute Moves to Walmart

On Thursday night, even with the initial floral arrangementcount of 350, Sal Perches realized there would be far too many flowers to go tothe cemetery for Margie Reckard’s burial. He had an inspiration.

He called all the leaders the of El Paso funeral homes that contributed funerals for the families of the slain. They coordinated a caravan of 22 hearses to carry the wealth of floral tributes to the public memorial that had sprung up along a fence next to the Walmart where the shooting occurred.

On Sunday morning, 22 hearses from the Perches, Sunset,Martin, San Jose, Mt. Carmel, Crestview and Hillcrest funeral homes were loadedup with flowers. Everyone wore “El Paso Strong” t-shirts. All 22 hearses werefully loaded. El Paso police provided a procession escort from La Paz FaithCenter to the public memorial. Along the route, people watched, recorded, andwaved.

Floral arrangements are loaded into 22 hearses to go to the memorial at Walmart.

At the Walmart, a crowd of hundreds watched the processionarrive. Once the hearses were parked, members of the public helped take theflowers out and place them along the length of the fence. A mariachi bandplayed music.

Sal Perches addressed the media and the crowd, with therepresentatives of all the funeral homes gathered together. “That was unbelievable,so emotional driving in here right now,” he said. “We had to give to ourcommunity the showing of the 22 hearses in procession means our 22 lovelypeople that we lost from El Paso, Juarez and Chihuahua. Something has to bedone. We cannot have any more lost lives.”

“We had over 1,000 arrangements for Mrs. Reckard. Yes, theywere for her, but they were also for everybody, for all of the victims, for ourcity, for everybody that participated in this, and all the people that are here,always cleaning up and coming to the memorial. Thank you, thank you for helpingto unload,” he added.

It was a fitting way to end the two weeks of funerals and help the El Paso community move toward healing.

All of the names of the shooting victims are memorialized on the plaque to the right, to be placed near the Walmart memorial area.

Massive News Media Coverage

The news media came out in force for Margie Reckard’svisitation. In addition to the local El Paso media, there was CNN, NBC NightlyNews, NPR, Univision/Telemundo, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USAToday, and Associated Press. At least 12 television cameras occupied thechoir loft and took images on the sanctuary’s main floor.

The news stories included:














Gail Rubin, CT, is author and host of the award-winning book and television series, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips, and KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die.

Rubin is a Certified Thanatologist (that's a death educator) and a popular speaker who uses humor and films to get the end-of-life and funeral planning conversation started. She "knocked 'em dead" with her TEDx talk, A Good Goodbye. She provides continuing education credit classes for attorneys, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospice workers, financial planners, funeral directors and other professionals. She's a Certified Funeral Celebrant and funeral planning consultant who has been interviewed in national and local print, broadcast and online media.

Known as The Doyenne of Death®, she is the event coordinator of the Before I Die NM Festival. She also hosts A Good Goodbye Internet radio show and produces Mortality Minute radio and online video spots. Her YouTube Channel features more than 450 videos!

Rubin is a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, Toastmasters International and the National Speakers Association New Mexico Chapter. Her speaking profile is available at eSpeakers.com.

Gail Rubin has been interviewed about funeral planning issues in national and local broadcast, print and online media. Outlets include The Huffington Post, Money Magazine, Kiplinger, CBS Radio News, WGN-TV,  and local affiliates for NPR, PBS, FOX, ABC-TV, CBS-TV and NBC-TV. Albuquerque Business First named her as one of their 2019 Women of Influence.

Sign up for a free planning form and occasional informative newsletter at her website, AGoodGoodbye.com.

A Good Goodbye
Albuquerque, NM