Barbara Jean Willke, the beloved wife of Dr. John Willke (the “father of the modern pro-life movement and the founder and president of International Right to Life Federation), passed away in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Sunday, April 14, 2013. Barbara and John shared 65 years together.
“Mrs. Willke was a woman of courage and intelligence whose lifelong commit-ment to preserving the sanctity of human life is a moving legacy,” said Paula Westwood, Executive Director Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. “No one can fill her shoes.”
Barbara and John authored several books on abortion and human sexuality including Handbook on Abortion, first published in 1971, translated into 30 different languages and considered to be one of the most influential books in shaping pro-life thought worldwide. They also wrote Abortion and Slavery: History Repeats, Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia: Past and Present, and Abortion, Questions and Answers: Why Can’t We Love Them Both.
“Barbara was always a joy to be with, and the work she did in the movement helped lay the foundation for decades of life-saving activity,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. “We will miss her, but we will carry her spirit with us and build on her work!”
Barbara’s passing is an appropriate time to reflect on Henry Hyde’s inspirational words. Henry was an Illinois Congressman from 1975 to his retirement and death in 2007. He was an inspiring leader who faithfully fought without hesitation for the rights of the unborn. He wrote:
“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgement, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates [apart from Jesus Christ who is all and more than any person requires], you are there standing before God – and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world – and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us.’”