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'The pain doesn't stop': Grieving husband of slain Texas teacher dies suddenly after visiting wife's memorial

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/26/2022 Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press
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Joe Garcia had just placed flowers Thursday morning at the memorial site of his high school sweetheart Irma Garcia — his wife of 24 years and mother of their four children.

When he returned, he sat down at a kitchen table surrounded by family and suddenly collapsed, according to his nephew, John Martinez. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. 

The Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary also confirmed Joe Garcia's death. 

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Irma Garcia was one of two fourth grade teachers who — along with 19 children — died Tuesday in a hail of gunfire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

"What happened was my Uncle Joe went to go leave flowers for my Tia (Aunt) Irma, his wife, and whenever he got back, he sat down at the kitchen table with his entire family, and after 3 minutes, he just fell over. I'm told my mom was giving him chest compressions. It happened around 10 o'clock. I know my little brother was there," Martinez of San Marcos, Texas, told the USA TODAY Network in a telephone interview.

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"They called the ambulance and I was told they couldn't bring him back. They took him to Uvalde Memorial Hospital. I'm not sure if they confirmed his death at the house or the hospital," Martinez said after getting updates from his father.

"The pain doesn't stop," John Martinez tweeted at 1:03 p.m. Thursday, acknowledging the loss of both his aunt and uncle in a close-knit family. 

"My Tia Irma’s husband Joe Garcia has passed away due to grief, 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," he said in another tweet a few minutes earlier. 

Now the four Garcia children — ages 23, 19, 15 and 13 — are planning two funerals, Martinez said.

Other family members are tied up with critical matters now and unable to talk with the media, Martinez said.

"Honestly, it genuinely feels like I got hit by another truck. It just doesn't make sense," Martinez said. "My heart hurts so bad for my four cousins. I did hear from my little brother that my dad's chest was hurting, as well. My parents lost family and their best friends."

He added, "My Tio (Uncle) Joe would work extra hours just to provide for his family. They really are a true American family. They instilled great values and morals in their kids."

Christian Garcia, a U.S. Marine, is flanked by his father, Joe Garcia, and his mother Irma Garcia -- a 4th grade killed in the Texas elementary school massacre on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Joe Garcia died Thursday of a heart attack. Christian Garcia and his three siblings, shown here, are making funeral arrangements now. © Provided John Martinez Christian Garcia, a U.S. Marine, is flanked by his father, Joe Garcia, and his mother Irma Garcia -- a 4th grade killed in the Texas elementary school massacre on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Joe Garcia died Thursday of a heart attack. Christian Garcia and his three siblings, shown here, are making funeral arrangements now.

A verified GoFundMe page has raised more than $200,000 for the family of Irma and Joe Garcia.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Phoebe Wall Howard on Twitter @phoebesaid. 

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 'The pain doesn't stop': Grieving husband of slain Texas teacher dies suddenly after visiting wife's memorial

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