The Latest News: A Tribute to Barbara Willke

The Latest News Archive 2013


A Tribute to Barbara Willke

Intellectually I knew this day would come, but now that it’s here, I realize it’s impossible to be fully prepared. I type this email with a very heavy heart. Barbara Willke, wife of Doctor Jack Willke, passed away Sunday evening. She succumbed to complications of severe head trauma due to a fall in early April. We had just celebrated Barbara’s 90th birthday two months before. Jack spent his 88th birthday at the bedside of his bride. They would’ve been married 65 years in June.

Many of us in the pro-life movement are here because of Jack and Barbara. For me it was my senior year in high school. I was doing a report on abortion and went to the local right to life chapter in Billings, Montana. Mary Rose gave me something called the Willke Handbook on Abortion, the Willke slide set and various other Willke pro-life literature. This was a persuasive speech class, so I first polled my classmates on the topic of abortion, gave my presentation and then polled the class again. Before I spoke, my fellow students were split 50/50 on abortion, but afterward, it was unanimous for life. Early on I realized that pro-life education is at the heart of legislative and political victories to end abortion.

There is no one who will go down in history as being more effective in this life-and-death battle than Jack and Barbara Willke. We used to call them the “parents” of the pro-life movement. As time went on we referred to Dr. Willke as the “grandfather” of the movement, but diplomatically still called Barbara the “mother” of the movement. This medical couple—he a physician and she a nurse—became famous for their pro-life presentations alternating back and forth between them. They have traveled the globe meeting world leaders as they worked to protect innocent human life on other continents.

Barbara didn’t like to take credit, but rather preferred the kudos went to Jack and others. I didn’t get very far late last year when I approached Barbara about having a dinner banquet with the theme of her 90th birthday. She quickly gave the idea two thumbs down.

Jack and Barbara have always held to the philosophy of facing facts and reacting to them. This made them extremely effective as they changed their approach to abortion as society evolved on this issue. Likewise, both were acutely aware that they were in the winter of their lives. The past years had been busy with going through mountains of files and boxes of pro-life materials over the decades—establishing an archive at the local museum and tossing the clutter. They were determined not to saddle that herculean task on someone else.

Even though these heroes of the pro-life movement were intellectually prepared to say goodbye, parting from one another is something they could never fully prepare for. As you can expect, Jack is absolutely devastated over losing his life-partner, and he desperately needs your prayers. Ask that God would provide the comfort and peace eluding him during these dark days.

In addition, I’m asking you to reach out to Dr. Willke with a word of thanks for what he and Barbara have sacrificially done for the babies over the years, and include a few words of comfort and encouragement. Please contact him at jwillke@lifeissues.org.

If you’d like to send flowers or mail a card to Dr. Willke, we have the appropriate information on our website, www.lifeissues.org. Details regarding the funeral will be posted there as soon as it’s available.

Please also pray that Life Issues Institute—under the continued leadership of Dr. Willke—will carry on the precious legacy begun by him and Barbara so many years ago. May we follow Barbara’s example of being faithful in running the race to the end.

Sincerely,

Bradley Mattes
Executive Director
Life Issues Institute

4/16/13

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. Organizations and individuals around the world depend upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

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Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. For 27 years, organizations and individuals around the world have depended upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

Life Issues Institute welcomes comments relevant to columns that are civil, concise, and respectful of other contributors. We do not publish comments with links to other websites or other online material.

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