By Deirdre A. McQuade
USCCB Life Issues Forum
Those of us who seek to build a culture of life stand on the shoulders of gentle giants. They are ordinary people who—even before Roe v. Wade made abortion on demand legal—responded with extraordinary generosity to defend our most defenseless brothers and sisters.
John (“Jack”) C. Willke, M.D., was one of those giants. He passed away on February 20, 2015, at the age of 89, having lost his wife of nearly 65 years, Barbara, two years ago. They raised their family of six children in Ohio, and have 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
An inseparable team, Jack and Barbara worked with urgency for over 40 years to show the wonder of human life developing in the womb and to tell the truth about the brutality of abortion. Dr. Willke retired from his family practice to do full-time pro-life work in 1988. Barbara also had a medical background, having been a nurse. Their educational resources, speaking engagements, and media appearances raised public awareness and cultivated a whole generation to fight abortion. Their reach also extended internationally. They spoke jointly in 64 countries; and The Handbook on Abortion (just one of twelve books they authored) was translated into over thirty languages, selling approximately 1.5 million copies worldwide.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For more information about the U.S. bishops’ pro-life activities, visit www.usccb.org/prolife or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.org/peopleoflife.