May They Rest in Peace: Mike Schwartz, Eric Bower & Tom Bresler

Activist Eric Bower

Activist Eric Bower

Three pro-life greats who were all good friends of the Pro-Life Action League have died in recent months.

Mike Schwartz: An Activist’s Activist

Pro-life pioneer and political strategist Mike Schwartz succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease on February 3. I knew Mike in the 1970s when he was working in Milwaukee with the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His boss at the time was Father Virgil Blum, who was also a close friend of mine. Mike and I spent time together working for the pro-life cause during his stay there, and I learned first-hand that he was a dedicated, loyal, and faithful Catholic as well as a fierce but gentle pro-life activist. I liked to call Mike “an activist’s activist.”

When he moved to Washington I saw him occasionally at meetings and rallies. But despite the fact that he went into politics, he never left his pro-life work. Mike had the distinction of having held a sit-in at a hospital in Washington, DC in 1970—three years before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton rulings. I believe he saw them coming.

Mike had carefully thought-out plans for winning the war for the rights of the unborn, as well as the war for religious freedom. He was a truly good and holy man, and I feel that a great, warm light has been turned off. We will miss that light, and that gentle way he had of telling you he had a plan.

Eric Bower: Always a Fighter

A few days later, on February 6, my old friend Eric Bower died following a long battle with leukemia. He fought the culture of death the same way he fought his illness—without complaint but with all his strength of will.

Eric and I had been working together in the pro-life movement since the late 1970s. He would come to nearly every pro-life picket, and he had a special affinity for protesting pro-abortion politicians. He seemed shy and soft-spoken when you first met him, but on the front lines, he was outspoken.

Eric knew suffering early in his married life when he and his wife Diane lost a baby girl to SIDS. After her death, Eric and Diane became devoted leaders in the effort to save babies from this malady.

Last fall, when Eric was in the hospital preparing for a round of chemo, he invited eight fellow Knights of Columbus to his hospital room. We talked and laughed a lot, then prayed over Eric for a quick recovery. Then he sent us to an elegant club for dinner and entertainment, just out of the kindness of his heart. That’s the kind of man Eric was: he wanted others to be happy, safe, and well. He wanted everyone to share the peace and joy he always seemed to have himself.

I always think of Eric with a big pro-life sign and an enormous smile. He was the best.

Tom Bresler: From Coffee Salesman to CPC Founder

A few months later, my longtime friend Tom Bresler, founder of Chicago’s Aid for Women crisis pregnancy center, died on April 27. My introduction to Tom came when I worked for Illinois Right to Life in the late 1970s, and he paid a visit to our office in the course of his work as a coffee salesman.

One day while I was on a long phone conversation, Tom sat in the reception area and heard my assistant Laura Canning talk a pregnant woman out of abortion over the phone. Tom was dumbfounded. When he came into my office, he forgot all about his coffee sales pitch and instead exclaimed, “I just witnessed a life being saved.” I told him that’s what we do—and he and I became immediate friends.

Thus began the pro-life mission of Tom Bresler. He sold the coffee business and opened the first Aid for Women pregnancy center in Deerfield, Illinois, followed by a center on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.

Michigan Avenue Women’s Center—an abortion clinic—was located just down the street from Aid for Women. One day in the spring of 1987, Tom got a call from the clinic’s marketing director. He told Tom that the staff disposed of aborted babies by packing the remains in boxes that were then discarded into the trash containers in the alley behind the clinic.

This knowledge led to several weeks of retrieving aborted babies’ remains from the alley behind the abortion clinic by a crack team of pro-life activists working with the League. We then had these babies buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

The fact that Tom Bresler was there, just a few doors from the abortion clinic when someone finally got uncomfortable with what was going on there, was crucial to the discovery and memorializing of these precious unborn children.

Tom’s wife of more than 70 years, Heather, died on May 2, as his wake was underway. So he and Heather continue to be together, even after death did them part.

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