Two days after his wife of 24 years, Irma Garcia, died in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Joe Garcia died of what his relatives called “a broken heart.”
Garcia, 50, suffered a heart attack Thursday after visiting his wife’s memorial, his nephew told The New York Times. Irma Garcia, 49, lost her life defending students from a teen gunman who opened fire on her fourth-grade classroom on Tuesday. The shooting killed 19 students and one other teacher—the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in a decade.
“i truly am at a loss for words for how we are all feeling, PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR FAMILY, God have mercy on us, this isn’t easy,” the couple’s nephew, John Martinez, tweeted Thursday. He added later: “the pain doesn’t stop.”
The couple, who family members said were high school sweethearts, left behind four children, the youngest of whom was 12.
Irma Garcia had taught at Robb Elementary for 23 years. An introductory page on the school district website said she loved to listen to music, take country cruises, and BBQ with her husband. Family members told The Washington Post that Irma was an incredible cook, and that she and Joe would often invite their extended family over for dinner.
On a GoFundMe page started in honor of the family, Irma’s cousin called her a “wonderful person” who would “literally do anything for anybody......no questions asked.”
“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,” she wrote.
Joe Garcia worked at the supermarket company HEB. Coworker Christine Ybarra remembered Joe and Irma in a Facebook post, writing, “May they [both] fly high with the angels you'll be missed by many. RIP prayers for their 4 children.”
Tuesday’s tragedy unfolded when 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother in the face, then took her truck and crashed it in a ditch near Robb Elementary. He ran onto school grounds with a rifle and barricaded himself in Garcia and co-teacher Eva Mireles’ interconnected classrooms, killing both teachers and 19 young students.
“She sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom,” Garcia’s family wrote in a GoFundMe, describing her as “sweet, kind, loving. Fun with the greatest personality.”
Contacted by The Daily Beast about Irma’s death on Wednesday morning, Joe Garcia promised to call back soon. He never returned the call.