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27 / 08 / 2012 - Deaths of inspirational pro-lifers - Nellie Gray and Joan Appleton
Precious Life were deeply saddened to hear of the recent deaths of Nellie Gray - Founder of the Annual March for Life; and Joan Appleton - a former abortion worker whose conversion to the pro-life movement helped many in the abortion industry leave their deadly practice
We offer our deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to their families and friends.
`The Joan of Arc of the Gospel of Life` - pro-life movement bids farewell to Nellie Gray
at the Annual March for Life in Washington
The pro-life matriarch who saw the March for Life through its paltry beginning to its status today as the fulcrum of the pro-life movement in America - and arguably, the world - was laid to rest late Friday morning in Washington, D.C.
Over 150 mourners gathered in Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. to pay their last respects to Nellie Gray, whom Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston called “the Joan of Arc of the Gospel of Life.” Gray was foundress of the National March for Life that now draws over 400,000 Americans in a massive witness to the sanctity of life on Capitol Hill each January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Gray, 88, passed away and was found in her home August 14.
Both O’Malley and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington assisted at the ceremony, a Missa Cantata Requiem in the traditional Latin rite of the Catholic Church.
Hanging in the vestibule were Nellie’s trademark red fur coat and hat, seen at countless rallies throughout the decades, with a March for Life pin still attached. From the loft, the haunting melodies of traditional Catholic requiem chants, including the Dies Irae, graced the ceremony as a reminder of Nellie’s loyalty to her faith.
Following the ceremony, Gray’s body was interred at Cedar Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.
Those who knew Nellie remembered how she, a World War II veteran with three degrees, including a law degree from Georgetown, was tireless in her decades fighting full-time for the rights of the unborn.
“She dropped everything and took up this cross,” said pastor Alfred J. Harris during the homily.
Terry Scanlon, the founding Vice President of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund, called his longtime friend “a real Renaissance lady” who was content with little in return for her work: Scanlon said Gray, after beginning the March for Life, “accepted a small pension and lived on this pension for the rest of her life, never accepting any remuneration from the March.”
Nellie, Scanlon noted, died with her boots on - she was calling up fellow elders in the pro-life movement to share reminisces of the first Marches for Life only two weeks ago.
“There were to be no exceptions in legislation banning abortion, there would be no compromise. This was her tireless message, and one to which each board member has always subscribed,” he said.
Cardinal O’Malley fought tears as he recalled helping his charismatic friend organize the first March for Life in 1974. The initial results were discouraging, with four people filling four charter buses, he said. It was thanks to Nellie’s unflagging commitment that the March grew to the massive annual throng it is today - and of late, inspired several more around the globe, including in Rome.
Yet Nellie’s cause, according to O’Malley, was not “life” - that was too abstract for her.
“Nellie’s cause was babies, preborn babies. How many times did we hear about preborn babies?” said the cardinal. “She was the voice for the children of the silent scream.”
Cardinal Wuerl agreed that Nellie never saw people in the abstract.
He described his first time up on the speaking platform at the March for Life one year as a young bishop and being confronted by Nellie, who turned to him and asked, “where is your hat?”
“She didn’t see masses of people, she saw individuals. She saw this young bishop who should have had his hat,” he said. Her question to each of those individuals, he said, was: “Where is your voice?”
“‘Where is your voice?’ Isn’t that what was the driving force, and continues to be, of the March for Life?”
Maryland state senator Frank Shore recalled Nellie as “so full of life.” “She got us all to the march,” Shore told LifeSiteNews.com. “She would identify and introduce the entire audience.”
Sister Shirley Ann of the Sisters of Life told LSN that Nellie’s work “really put a face on pro-life.”
“I couldn’t imagine a January without a March for Life,” she said. “It always lifts our hearts to see so many people there, and to see the March become so young, too.”
The March for Life Board of Directors asked those wishing to honor Nellie to donate to the Nellie Gray Legacy Fund in lieu of flowers.
The Board of Directors of the march have published that they and many of Nellie’s friends are “planning a special memorial service in Nellie’s honor at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.”
Joan Appleton dies: Abortion nurse turned pro-life activist
Joan Appleton - a former abortion worker whose conversion to the pro-life movement helped many in the abortion industry leave their deadly practice has died
Before her 1989 conversion, Joan Appleton worked as the head nurse at Commonwealth Women’s Clinic in Washington, D.C., and was an active member of the radically pro-abortion National Organization for Women (NOW).
In a testimony about her conversion, Appleton described witnessing an ultrasound guided abortion and how the experience was instrumental in changing her mind on the issue.
“I handled the ultrasound while the doctor performed the procedure and I directed him while I was watching the screen,” she wrote. “I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. I had seen Silent Scream a number of times, but it didn’t effect me. To me it was just more pro-life propaganda. But I couldn’t deny what I saw on the screen. After that procedure I was shaking, literally, but managed to pull it together and continue on with the day.”
Appleton was later to announce her departure from the pro-abortion movement in a dramatic fashion.
“My way of getting out of NOW was that I was a guest speaker at a Virginia NOW dinner,” she recalled in her testimony. “I got up to the podium and I said, ‘Folks, I can’t do this anymore. There is something wrong here and I can no longer be a part of the abortion industry or a part of the pro-choice movement and so I can no longer be a part of NOW.”
“I was asked to leave immediately,” she recalls.
Brian Gibson, the Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries and long-time friend of Joan Appleton, recalled when he first met the former abortion nurse in 1989.
“We were in the middle of leading operation-rescue type activities and working under extreme pro-life paranoia,” recalled Gibson laughingly. Appleton was brought into Gibson’s office and was introduced as a nurse who was still working inside an abortion center in DC and was involved in NOW.
“I was on pins and needles so concerned that she was there to spy on us,” he said. But in later conversation about their first meeting Appleton said, much to Gibson’s relief, that she was was grateful for the warm welcome and did not detect any suspicion.
Appleton came to work at Pro-Life Action Ministries in January 1993. She held various positions with the ministry, the most significant of which was to create and lead the Society of Centurions of America. The Centurions was an outreach to former abortion workers focused on three areas of help: spiritual healing, psychological counseling and financial aid.
“The Centurions program helped many leave the abortion industry at a time when few in the pro-life movement knew of such efforts and helped many former abortion workers come to proper terms with their prior work,” said Gibson.
Appleton retired from Pro-Life Action Ministries in August 2002 yet continued to volunteer on a weekly basis. Gibson last encountered Appleton at the office “a couple of weeks ago.”
Her pro-life testimony shared before many, was a shocking glimpse of the inner workings of the abortion industry.
After her conversion to the pro-life position, said Gibson, Appleton returned to her Catholic roots and became a very faithful member of her church.
Precious Life invited Joan to Ireland on a number of occasions. During one of our conferences she warned the people of Ireland that pro-abortionists thrive on the apathy of those who claim to be pro-life. She urged pro-lifers to become more active. She praised the methods and tactics used by Precious Life saying “they're the only ones willing to go on the line for human life and they do it without the support of many people . . . yes, they show horrific pictures but they only show the truth. I support them 100%. I admire them and I respect them. They are a marvellous group of people.” She concluded with a stark message to the audience “my message to you today - if you believe deeply with your heart and soul that abortion is wrong . . . that abortion is murder, then act like it. Don't be a "couch-potato" pro-lifer, you are the silent majority. Get out of your comfy armchair and tell everyone that abortion is wrong, that abortion is murder . . . before it is too late.”