R.I.P., Tom Bresler

Wedding photo of Heather and Tom Bresler, August 1, 1942

Wedding photo of Heather and Tom Bresler, August 1, 1942

My longtime friend Thomas W. Bresler, founder of Chicago’s Aid for Women crisis pregnancy center, was buried today on his 95th birthday.

My introduction to Tom came when I served as executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee. He visited our office to sell his Metropolitan Coffee Service to us.

One day while I was on a long phone conversation, Tom sat in the reception area and heard my assistant Laura Canning talking with a pregnant woman seeking an abortion. In the course of her conversation Laura dissuaded the woman from having an abortion. Tom was dumbfounded. He didn’t know someone could talk a woman out of an abortion. He forgot all about his coffee sales pitch.

As he came into my office he exclaimed, “I just witnessed a life being saved.” I told him that’s what we do. Tom 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, followed by a center on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Michigan Avenue Women’s Center (MAWC) — 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 abortion clinic’s marketing director. The man, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of his employer, was disturbed by practices in the clinic. He told Tom that the doctors and staff treated their patients with disdain, and that they disposed of the aborted babies by packing the remains in boxes that were then discarded into the trash containers in the alley behind the clinic.

Tom scheduled a meeting with the clinic employee, but didn’t want to meet with him alone. He called my house, but I was on a speaking trip. Ann spoke with Tom and agreed to join him at his office when he met with the clinic employee. Following that meeting I met with the man and got more details about the clinic’s practices, particularly the disposal of the fetal remains.

This discovery led to several weeks of retrieval of these discarded babies by a team of pro-life activists, including Tim Murphy and Monica Miller. We contacted the health department of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, sure that some kind of violation was involved in disposing of human remains in a garbage dumpster. But we learned, much to our dismay, that no laws were being violated.

We documented the Michigan Avenue Baby Find, photographed the aborted children and held a press conference on May 6, 1987 in front of the abortion clinic, displaying the results of their daily activities—hundreds of dead babies’ bodies.

This was the beginning of our project of retrieving aborted babies and arranging for their proper burial. Those particular babies were buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

The fact that Tom Bresler was there on Michigan Avenue just a few doors from the abortion clinic when someone in the clinic finally got uncomfortable with what was going on in his place of business was crucial to the discovery and memorializing of these little children. Tom’s center, Aid for Women, has been responsible for hundreds of lives saved and hundreds commemorated.

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

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.

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