‘No one can fill her shoes’: Pro-life trailblazer Barbara Willke passes away
CINCINNATI, April 15, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The pro-life movement is grieving the loss today of pro-life trailblazer Barbara Willke, the wife of Dr. John Willke. Barbara passed away Sunday evening at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cinncinati. She had suffered head trauma as the result of a fall.
“She was truly a great leader along with her husband, Dr. John C. Willke,” Jim Hughes, president of Canada's Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews.com. “As a registered nurse, together with her husband who was a physician, they were able to educate hundreds of thousands of people around the world about the evils of abortion and the terrible after-effects...They were a perfect team.”
“Their handbooks on abortion were Bibles for the pro-life movement in the early years,” he said.
With Dr. Willke, Barbara co-authored twelve books on human sexuality and abortion. Together they also created audio and visual materials that became the basic teaching tools for pro-life activists throughout the world. Their materials have been translated into 30 languages on all five continents. She and Dr. Willke frequently appeared on radio and TV shows, and they have spoken in 64 different countries.
Barbara is the mother of six, grandmother of 22, and foster mother of several teenagers. She headed the Department at the College of Nursing for five years before her full-time career as wife and mother.
She and Jack would have been married for 65 years this June.
Hughes said that the Willkes' pace in recent years has left their younger colleagues gasping for breath.
During trips to Poland, the Philippines, England, and throughout Latin America, “the rest of us would be dying, and these two were still carrrying on. I think they were in their 80s at the time,” Hughes said. “They really blazed the pro-life trail for the rest of us.”
Numerous other pro-life leaders expressed their profound sense of loss.
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“Barbara was like a mother to me,” said Bradley Mattes, executive director of Life Issues Institute, which Dr. Willke co-founded. “She and Jack have been my inspiration and mentors for the 38 years I’ve been in the pro-life movement. The impact she and Jack have had on the pro-life movement is immeasurable.”
“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.
Janet Morana, the author of Recall Abortion, said that Barbara “had a great influence on me and was a great encouragement to me especially when I first became involved in the pro-life movement over 20 years ago. Our movement has suffered a great loss.”
The Willkes may have another book to offer yet, despite her death. Jim Hughes expressed his disappointment that the Willkes' three-volume history of the pro-life movement had not yet been published prior to her death.
Leaders in the couple's home state remembered Mrs. Willke fondly and said they regretted that she would not live to see the political triumphs her work of love put into motion.
“We were all hoping that Ohio's Heartbeat Bill would pass in Barbara's lifetime,” said Lori Viars, Vice President of Warren County Right To Life. “Barbara was one of the kindest and most positive people you will ever meet. Even into her last few years, she would be at Jack's side at pro-life events.”
“Everyone loved Barbara!” she added. “This is such a loss. Please keep Jack and their family in your prayers.”
“Mrs. Willke was a woman of courage and intelligence whose lifelong commitment 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.”