WASHINGTON, DC, February 5, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Michael Schwartz, longtime chief of staff to Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn and a man described by many as the best pro-life political strategist they had ever met, passed away on Sunday, February 3 after succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 63.

Schwartz was a devout Catholic, and, in his lifelong fight against abortion, was one of the founders of the DC March for Life.

Following this year's March, and just days before his death, Schwartz was awarded the National Pro-Life Religious Council’s (NPRC) Pro-Life Recognition Award during the 19th annual National Memorial for the Preborn and Their Mothers and Fathers.

In a statement on Monday, Sen. Coburn described Schwartz as “an extraordinary servant and faithful leader.”

“He showed everyone - by his life, deeds and words - that things that are unseen are the things that matter. As he battled ALS - Lou Gehrig’s disease - he showed us what it means to run the race and finish it strongly. Well done, good and faithful servant.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike’s wife, Rose Ann, and their children and grandchildren.”

In a moving tribute on the Senate floor last November, when Schwartz was no longer able to fulfill his duties because of his advancing illness, Sen. Coburn had praised Schwartz as "one of the kindest, gentlest people anyone has ever met.”

“He is still the guy who cares more about other people than himself,” Coburn said.

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“Mike has also been an unapologetic defender of the family and of those who cannot defend themselves, whether that be the disability community, the unborn, the infirm, or the elderly. He has reminded me and my staff and all of us that a society is truly measured in how it treats and cares for those less fortunate.”

Schwartz’s death was mourned by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. "His loss will be felt,” said Perkins, “not just on Senator Coburn's staff, but among everyone with whom he came in contact."

A statement from the organization Faith & Law, a nonprofit group that seeks to help congressional staff understand Christianity, praised Schwartz’s work in Washington. 

“Mike fought valiantly for the unborn from the advent of legalized abortion in America,” the statement reads. “He was an avid reader of the most rigorous books and essays, reading a book or two each week. He relished discussions about God, the Supreme Court, and politics. He was a friend of the high and mighty and the lowly and powerless alike.”

Dan Zeidler, president of the Family Life Council and the U.S. representative for the Latin American Alliance for the Family (ALAFA), recalled that in a conversation with Mr. Schwartz only a few weeks ago, "what amazed me then was his spirit - the same caring and generous Mike I had been privileged to know as a friend since the 70's when he first moved to Milwaukee to work for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights."

Zeidler said that many in Washington "considered him one of the best political and pro-life strategists they had ever met," adding, "The same great spirit, quick intelligence and willingness to help was quickly recognized by our national pro-life leaders."

In his tribute, Zeidler mentioned that not only was Mr. Schwartz "well-known, respected and loved in D.C." but was held in high esteem by leaders in Latin America. 

"He had a great love and concern for Latin America, and wanted to help in any way he could to save Latin America from the ever-increasing international anti-life threat," Zeidler told LifeSiteNews.

"Over the years, Mike traveled with me to many Latin American countries when he was able to take time away from work and family. Key pro-life and religious leaders from Mexico, Central and South America profited mightily from his insights not just during these trips, but through Mike's constant ‘I'm only a phone call away’ availability. The last time I spoke to him, he again encouraged me in our efforts to promote the Culture of Life in Latin America," Zeidler said.

"Let us ask the Lord to give comfort to Rose Ann and the family at this time, and let us give thanks to God for this great man, and pray, as he would want us, that he now rest in the Lord's Peace!" Zeidler concluded.

The funeral Mass for Michael Schwartz will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 7, at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, Md., with interment at All Souls cemetery.