Two days later, her husband, Joe, had just returned home from laying flowers on the cross bearing his wife’s name in the school yard, when he grabbed and fell, dying of a heart attack at the age of 50. His family said he died of a broken heart.
This week the small town near the Mexican border began the grim process of burying its dead – with people pouring in from across the country to donate food, water and flowers for the funeral and to pray to the two impromptu memorials that have been erected in the city.
On Tuesday, the tandem farewell began for the Garcias, with a joint visitation and rosary at a local funeral home, and a funeral mass on Wednesday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
The couple met in high school and their young relationship ‘turned into a beautiful and kind love’, according to a joint obituary. They married 24 years ago at Sacred Heart, where they were longtime parishioners.
Irma, 48, had spent her entire 23-year teaching career at Robb, being named teacher of the year and receiving other awards. At least one of his children had been a student in his class. But relatives said she treated all of her students as family and always encouraged them to fight for college. When she wasn’t in class, she enjoyed cooking for her family and fishing on the Gulf Coast.
Joe was described as a devoted father and passionate husband who worked at a local HEB grocery store. one online video tributeReleased by the morgue handling the Garcias funeral, shows photo after photo of Irma and Joe surrounded and hugging family and friends – or each other.
The couple left behind four children – the eldest, Cristian, 23, a Marine; Jose, 19, a student at Texas State University; Lyliana, 15, second-year high school student; and Alysandra 12, a seventh grader.
The double loss of parents has resulted in an outpouring of grief and support for their children. A go finance me organized by Irma’s cousin, Debra Austin, started with a goal of $10,000 and has now received donations of nearly $2.8 million.
“Their family was an all-American family,” Irma’s nephew, John Martinez, told The Washington Post in an interview this week. “They are great people. The whole family, they are all great people. They don’t deserve this.