ATLANTIC CITY — Friends and family of Bessy Blanco remembered the slain casino worker Tuesday as someone “with a strong heart” who touched many lives around her.

“She died, but she’s still living,” said friend and former co-worker of six years Claribel Mena, 58, of Atlantic City. “She’s never going to be forgotten.”

Blanco, a 54-year-old former casino worker and immigrant from Honduras who served the community and suffered her own string of tragedies, was found stabbed to death Feb. 18.

Hundreds of people, including co-workers, friends, family members and neighbors, flooded in and out of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church on Tuesday morning to bid their final goodbyes to Blanco before her burial.

Some wiped away tears, others looked on from across the street. Some had flowers in hand remembering the good Blanco did for her community.

“She’s going to be a legend,” Mena said.

Jose B. Lopez, 51, of North Oakland Avenue in Ventnor, was arrested and charged in Blanco’s death. Prosecutors alleged that Lopez, a jealous ex-boyfriend, fatally stabbed her.

Lopez also is accused of stabbing 52-year-old Mark Richart, of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, in Blanco’s North Harrisburg Avenue home, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. Richart was hospitalized in critical condition.

Mena said Blanco was her supervisor at a casino and “did so much for everybody,” raising money for the community and families in need but also stepping up for her own family in times of tragedy.

When Blanco was in her 30s, she took in her sister’s children right before Christmas 2000, when their parents and another sibling were killed in an Egg Harbor City car crash.

Weeks later, in 2001, her husband, Arnoldo Blanco, died, just as they were weeks away from buying a house together.{p dir=”ltr”}Luis Blanco, 36, the son of Arnoldo Blanco who lives in New York, said outside the funeral Tuesday he’s still processing what happened to his stepmother.

“This was a shock to me,” he said. ”She was a great person, very energetic, happy, very family-oriented.”

Donna Decaprio, of Egg Harbor Township, knew Blanco through the Unite Here Local 54 casino workers union for 18 years. She said she’ll miss Blanco’s giving spirit.

“Whenever there was any type of tragedy and conflict, she would immediately step up and jump in,” Decaprio said. “She’s touched so many lives.”

Friends and family members outside the service said her children and immediate family are holding up strong, just like Blanco.

“She had a strong heart,” said family friend Jay Ramirez, 27, of Atlantic City.

Ramirez said Blanco was like a second mother to him, and he’d known her since he was 11 years old.

Rebecca Blanco, her niece, set up a fundraising page to help the family with funeral costs, at youcaring.com/anitablancofuneralcost-760636/. As of Tuesday evening, the page had raised nearly $9,700 toward a goal of $10,000.

Contact

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Twitter @ACPressSerpico

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