By Kathleen Gilbert
OWOSSO, Michigan, September 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Jim Pouillon, the pro-life activist shot and killed outside a high school in Owosso Friday morning, is being remembered today by friends as a peaceful and dedicated defender of the unborn. Those who knew him say that, in the face of the frequent physical harassment and death threats aimed at him for his pro-life work, the veteran pro-lifer always responded with charity.
According to friends, Pouillon, 63, was a born-again Christian and longtime resident of Owosso. They say he was divorced, with a son and a daughter as well as grandchildren.
LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) spoke with Cal Zastrow, a longtime friend of Pouillon's, who described the pro-life activist as “one of the most loving, compassionate people, peaceful people I've ever met in my life.”
Zastrow says Pouillon began his pro-life work with the rescue movement spearheaded by Operation Rescue in Atlanta, Georgia in 1988, and has been active ever since.
“He was 100% non-violent. He never threatened anyone. He never condoned violence ever,” said Zastrow.
While known to travel to pro-life events throughout the country, Pouillon's most frequent method of witnessing was by holding signs on the street corners in his hometown. And that was what he was doing when he was gunned down this morning – holding a sign depicting the beaming face of a newborn baby, with the word “LIFE” superimposed.
In his hometown, residents grew to expect the large bearded man, sitting in a lawn chair and holding pro-life signs with images of babies or aborted children. Suffering from weak lungs compromised by smoking earlier in life, he depended on a portable oxygen tank.
Occasionally, as he was doing this morning, Pouillon was known to stand near Owosso high school to discuss abortion with the students there.
He became known, after at least fifteen years of steady witnessing in Owosso, as “Jim the sign guy” or “the abortion sign guy,” a ubiquitous presence that always drew reactions, whether of praise, anger, or hatred.
Various sources have described Pouillon as the frequent target of screaming, spitting, and even throwing fruit. Zastrow said that he and Pouillon often received verbal abuse and death threats from passersby.
But, he would just ”smile and laugh, and say 'Thank you, Jesus,'” Zastrow said of his friend. He noted that he and Pouillon had been physically assaulted on separate occasions “for peacefully praying and witnessing.”
“He would say, 'God forgive you, I bless you,'” he added.
Court records published by local news reports show that Pouillon has been cited on charges connected to his pro-life activities, mostly minor infringements related to property laws, many of which were dismissed. In 2000, Pouillon was found guilty for stalking – a charge Zastrow says was unjustly brought against the veteran pro-lifer.
“Once they lied about him and put him in jail for stalking, and they said he threatened somebody, but it wasn't true,” said Zastrow. “He never threatened anybody.”
Zastrow expressed concern that media reports would portray Pouillon as violent. “He never was,” said Zastrow. “He's America's first peaceful pro-life rescuer martyr.”
Pastor Matt Trewhella of the Missionaries of the Preborn described his friend of 7 years as “so soft-spoken, but persevering, faithful.” Trewhella said Pouillon began his ministry after he saw images of unborn children killed by abortion.
“He was moved with compassion and decided he had to speak up for them,” said the pastor. “He was a good man.”
Operation Rescue president Troy Newman told LSN that Pouillon, who participated in Operation Rescue, was a “dear friend” and “always an encourager.”
“He's the sort of guy who always gives you a big bear hug, tells you he loves you,” said Newman. “I know he was always out on the street carrying a sign whether it was the dead of winter, or the middle of summer.
Newman said Pouillon's faithfulness was evidenced by the way he died. “He was faithfully out on the street holding a sign in the middle of the week with a beautiful picture of a baby and it said 'life' on it. 'Life,' and a picture of a baby. And he was shot down for it,” said Newman.
“If the purveyors of death think this is going to stop us, they're absolutely dead wrong,” said Newman. “History is replete with martyrs who have stood sacrificially and even given their own lives so that others may live. And that has always been the premise of the pro-life movement, and we will continue steadfast marching forward in that direction.
“Was he a perfect man? No, none of us are. But he stood faithful to the end.”