I learnt yesterday of the death of Mrs. Barbara Willke this past Sunday evening. The Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati posts the details: “In Memoriam: Mrs. Barbara Willke”:
With great sadness, Cincinnati Right to Life mourns the loss of Mrs. Barbara Willke, who served as co-founder along with her husband and as chairman of the organization for 28 years. She died peacefully Sunday night at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, after suffering a severe head injury due to a fall. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“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.”
Barbara Willke was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and internationally known author, lecturer, and expert in human sexuality. She held B.S. and R.N. degrees from the University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing & Health, plus graduate studies at University of Dayton.
Mother of six, grandmother of 22, foster mother of several teenagers, Barbara headed the Department at the College of Nursing for five years before her full-time career as wife and mother. She is the wife of Dr. John Willke, past president of National Right to Life, president, Life Issues Institute and president emeritus, International Right to Life Federation. They would have been married for 65 years this June.
With Dr. Willke, Barbara co-authored twelve books on human sexuality and abortion. Together they created audio and visual materials that were proven to be basic teaching tools throughout the world. Their materials have been translated into 30 languages on all five continents. She and Dr. Willlke frequently appeared on radio and TV shows. They have spoken in 64 different countries.
Mrs. Willke was awarded honorary doctorates from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and, along with Dr. Willke, Cincinnati’s Xavier University.
Congressman Henry Hyde’s words bring to mind Barbara Willke:
When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!’
I used to volunteer at the Right to Life office in North College Hill when I was a teenager, and I would always find Mrs. Willke tirelessly working in her office, though she was decades older than retirement age. Even though she and her husband were instrumental in founding the right to life movement in America and were internationally celebrated in prolife circles, Mrs. Willke humbly remained in Cincinnati and toiled in our small, unpretentious R.T.L. headquarters. She would frequently come out to say encouraging words and to show her appreciation to the volunteers while we helped stuff envelopes and did other clerical tasks in the back workroom. She was always kind and grandmotherly, manifesting a quiet but radiant and peaceful joy. May her memory be eternal! And of that, I am certain. I do not have definite views on the afterlife, but if souls may converse in the presence of the Lord, then I suspect that her friend the late Nellie Gray was there to welcome Mrs. Willke home.