In the 60 years they were married, Raúl, 83, and Maria Flores, 77, rarely spent a day apart.

They met in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez as young adults and raised their family around the hills of California’s San Gabriel Valley. Together, in 1959, they grieved the death of their 2-week-old daughter, Alejandra, who had pneumonia. Together, they retired to a house in El Paso, where they cooked tamales and brought spindly plants back to life. Together, they nurtured three children, 11 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren – and were waiting for one on the way.

On Saturday, the couple were gunned down at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The only comfort that their relatives take in their deaths is that, in the end, Raúl and Maria Flores were not separated.

“They didn’t deserve to go this way, but for me, I take comfort in knowing that they went together,” said Raúl Flores Jr., 55, the couple’s eldest son.

Flores Sr. was scheduled to have open-heart surgery Monday. On the day of the shooting, the couple were at Walmart buying air mattresses for relatives traveling to El Paso for the surgery.

“I tell myself, maybe it’s the Lord’s way of doing it,” Flores Jr. said, his voice cracking. “Maybe He knew my father wasn’t going to make it during the surgery, and maybe He knew that if anything happened to my father, my mother would be destroyed. Maybe that’s why He decided to take them together.”

Among the 22 people who died in the El Paso massacre were four married couples: the Floreses; Leo Campos and Maribel Hernández; Sara Esther Regalado and Adolfo Cerros Hernández, from Ciudad Juarez; and Jordan and Andre Anchondo, who died protecting their 2-month-old baby. In the supermarket that day were also David and Kathy Johnson. According to relatives, David, 63, died using his body as a shield to protect his wife and their 9-year-old granddaughter, both of whom escaped unharmed. The Johnsons, a nephew said, were best friends.

Clockwise from top left: Andre and Jordan Anchondo (Photo courtesy of Tito Anchondo); Raul and Maria Flores; Leo Campos and Maribel Hernandez (Photo courtesy of Albert Hernandez). They are among the four married couples who died in the massacre in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday. Photos courtesy of the families via The Washington Post

These couples had built their lives around each other. And on Saturday, they were at Walmart to perform the same tasks that millions of others perform routinely: pick up groceries, buy school supplies, bond with their children and their grandchildren. In the wake of the shooting, relatives and friends of these victims have turned to their love stories as a way to remember – and celebrate – them.

Jordan and Andre Anchondo had marked their first wedding anniversary last week, said Andre’s older brother, Tito Anchondo. Andre, 24, had been in a rut for a few years but had turned his life around after meeting Jordan, 25, Tito said.

“She was his support system,” he said. “When he met Jordan, it gave him more reason to get on track with his life. He got his life in order.”

In 2018, Andre left the family auto-repair business to set up his own shop, Andre House of Granite and Stone. Business for his brother had been good, Tito said, and in his free time, Andre channeled his energy toward building a house for his young family, laboring under the Texas sun hours for at a time to get everything just right.

The house was finally ready, Tito Anchondo said, and on the day of the shooting, the Anchondos were at Walmart, buying supplies for a housewarming party they were planning.

Like Jordan Anchondo, Maribel Hernández, 56, was a pillar of support for her husband, Leo Campos, relatives said.

The couple led a simple life: Campos, 41, worked at a call center during the day while Hernández managed the household and cared for their children and grandchildren. For several years, Campos attended classes at a local school – training to become certified as an elementary school sports coach – and his wife would help him with essays late into the night, said Maribel’s brother Albert Hernández.

On Maribel Hernández’s birthday, or sometimes for no reason, Campos would romance her with long letters and large bouquets of flowers. When the couple could spare the time, they traveled to South Padre Island on the Gulf Coast. Hernández loved the beach, her brother said, and Campos loved pleasing her.

Flores Sr. was the same way with his wife, his children said.

Born in the Mexican city of Jiménez, Flores Sr. worked as a painter most of his life. He had a strong work ethic and even in retirement would occasionally do painting jobs. Leticia Saldana, 57, said her father worked to make sure he could take care of Maria, “his queen.”

Flores Sr. was sweeping floors at a tailor shop in 1950s Ciudad Juarez when he first saw Maria walk by, Saldana said. The soft-spoken young man would bring his broom near Maria to catch her attention until one day, she was “swept off her feet,” their daughter said in an interview, laughing between tears. From then on, the couple were rarely seen apart. Everywhere they went, including to the grocery store, the couple held hands, their children said.

Flores Sr. bought Maria shoes, clothes and bags that filled three closets, leaving just a little corner for his own items. And in return, Maria – Grandma Flores, as she was known – doted on the rest of the family.

Born in Tlahualilo, Maria loved to cook and had a knack for knowing exactly what everybody in her family loved to eat. Grandchildren who called ahead to say they were visiting would often arrive to find plates of their favorite dishes waiting for them while Maria prepared dessert in the kitchen, dancing as she baked to Elvis Presley or Marco Antonio Solis.

“They were so much alike, my parents,” Saldana said. “They were inseparable.”

“My whole life, that was my goal, to have a marriage, a love like that.”

 

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