Joe Garcia, 48, died just two days after his wife, Irma Garcia, 46, a teacher at Uvalde’s Robb elementary school, was killed
The death toll from the Uvalde school shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers reached the campus’ extended family Thursday, when the husband of one of the slain teachers died of a heart attack.
Guadalupe “Joe” Garcia – the husband of 46-year-old Irma Garcia, who was shot and killed while sheltering children in her classroom – died two days after the mass killing that shattered his family, a cousin of his wife confirmed on a verified GoFundMe page.
The Garcias had been together for more than 30 years. They were high school sweethearts before marrying and having four children, the cousin, Debra Austin, wrote.
Shortly before his fatal heart attack, journalists recorded Joe Garcia dropping flowers off at a cross with his wife’s name written on it, Houston news station KHOU-TV reported.
“I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life … was too much to bear,” Austin wrote.
The Garcias’ nephew, John Martinez, said via Twitter that the couple’s children – ages 13, 15, 19 and 23 – had now lost both parents.
Irma Garcia taught fourth-grade students at Robb elementary, in a mostly Hispanic community about 85 miles west of San Antonio, where she had worked for 23 years.
On her profile on the school’s website, she wrote that she and Joe, 48, enjoyed barbecuing, listening to music, and vacationing at the nearby community of Concan, which sits along Texas’ Frio River.
The couple’s first child – one of two boys – was completing boot camp with the Marines, and their second, another son, was attending Texas State University, according to the profile. The two youngest children, both daughters, are a high school sophomore and a seventh grader.
While complete details about Joe Garcia’s death weren’t immediately available Thursday, research has shown that the death of a spouse is one of the most stressful things a person can endure, and grief can take a deadly toll on one’s body in what is termed broken heart syndrome.
Martinez asked the public to consider donating to the GoFundMe campaign set up to help the Garcias cover various expenses.
Irma Garcia, 48, was one of the two teachers slain in the shooting rampage at Robb Elementary School in the Garcias’ hometown of Uvalde, Tex., on Tuesday.
Less than two hours after the morning text message, Martinez got a call from his family to tell him his uncle had died after being rushed to the hospital following an apparent heart attack.
Martinez texted his brother around noon. “This is so overwhelming.”
For five years, they were co-teachers. Then they were gunned down.
On Thursday, as Martinez began to fill in the details from his relatives, he said, he felt ill with grief.
Joe Garcia, 50, had just returned to the family’s home after venturing out to leave flowers at a memorial set up for the victims outside Robb Elementary School. He was in the kitchen, Martinez said, when he suddenly seized and fell over.
Martinez’s mother, who was at the house with the family, sprang into action, administering chest compressions until paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital. He died there.
“We’re all just in shock,” Martinez said.
Before his uncle’s death, Martinez told The Washington Post on Wednesday that his tía Irma had died a hero and that his family wanted her to be remembered as someone who sacrificed her life to protect her students.
“They weren’t just her students. Those were her kids, and she put her life on the line. She lost her life to protect them,” Martinez said. “That’s the type of person she was.”
On Thursday, he struggled to find the words to describe his aunt and uncle. Together, the couple had four children: Cristian, 23; Jose, 19; Lyliana, 15; and Alysandra, 12.
“Their family was an all-American family,” he said of his aunt, uncle and cousins. “They’re great people. The entire family, they’re all great people. They don’t deserve this.”
Joe and Irma Garcia’s love story stretched a quarter century, packed with barbecues, music, scenic country drives and the couple’s four children.
“I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life of more than 25 years was too much to bear,” Irma’s cousin, Debra Austin, wrote in an online fundraiser mounted in support of the Garcias’ four children.
Joe was a dedicated father, a leader at his job at the H-E-B grocery store and a doting husband, who adored the woman he met in high school and then married, Martinez said.
But this week, the Garcia home — typically the site of jubilant family gatherings, filling holiday meals and traditions like sharing grapes for luck at midnight on New Year’s Eve — was transformed into a monument to the pain of a family that in less than two days saw both parents perish.
“Our family is just in shambles right now,” Martinez said. “Nobody expected any of this. It’s heartbreaking.”