By J. C. Willke, MD, Jane Grimm, and Bradley Mattes
There are some people who develop a very high profile while working within the pro-life movement. Their words and actions are frequently quoted in media outlets and throughout the blogging hemisphere.
Then there are others who in their lifetimes carve out a much lower profile. Except for the inner circle in which they operate, they aren’t very well known. Some of these low profile people accomplish great things toward protecting innocent human life from womb to tomb without garnering noticeable attention. Mark Lally was one such person.
Mark was the longest-serving staff member of Ohio Right to Life until his untimely death from lung cancer last November. He devoted over twenty-five years as a volunteer to the organization—part of that as the group’s president. After retiring from the board, he became Ohio Right to Life’s Legislative Counsel. He served in that position until his death.
Mark earned a bachelor’s and law degree from Ohio State University and taught several years at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Zanesville, OH.
While others thrive in the spotlight, he was a quiet guy, not the type to give speeches. Even though he was an accomplished attorney, he never broadcast the fact, but continued over the years to use his own capabilities and intelligence to quietly and effectively further the cause of innocent human life in Ohio. Mark was a walking encyclopedia of elected officials, politicians, bills, legislation and court decisions. This enabled Ohio Right to Life to legally stay on track, and keep moving the ball forward on the controversial life issues. His knowledge—always accurate and impeccable—aided his ability in crafting remarkable pro-life legislation. Mark was always available to discuss any issue, answer any question, or search out any details, even during the legislative sessions when he was frequently at the state house.
Undoubtedly, Mark could have achieved a more prestigious and higher paying job, giving him much more of a public profile and making him better known to the public. But that wasn’t Mark’s style, or the direction he wanted to go. His major goal in life was to help the cause of the unborn. He accomplished this by devoting his talents and efforts to backing up those who performed the function of being visible spokespersons in the movement. Truth be told, much of the credit that those of us who were front people received should have rested on his head not ours.
Mark’s love of children was apparent, although he never married or had any of his own. Small tots who came into the office always seemed to attract Mark like a magnet and his eyes would light up as he greeted them. He kept a supply of little toys, (some say from Happy Meals) and could be found on the floor playing with the delighted little visitors.
Jane Grimm, past president of Ohio right to Life, recalled that Mark’s life seemed to revolve almost totally around the pro-life mission, but he loved sports at Ohio State and pro football. She noted that during one board meeting, Mark smuggled a small radio into the meeting to follow the pro football draft.
Mark served quietly and effectively under several elected state presidents in the Right to Life office. While others over the years staked out certain sharp positions on policy and personnel, Mark quietly pursued the pro-life agenda without getting into personalities or choosing sides on issues that were not basic to the pro-life effort.
During the thirty-eight years since Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement has benefited from the tireless, behind-the-scenes efforts of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. Mark is one of the many who gave of themselves without any desire for recognition.
His death left a gaping hole in the pro-life movement, especially in Ohio. It brings a smile to our faces when we fondly picture the tiny victims Mark so tirelessly worked to save from abortion, now in heaven and sharing their toys with him. He was truly the personification of an unsung hero and we’ll greatly miss him.
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J. C. Willke, MD, is founding member of Ohio Right to Life. Jane Grimm is past president of Ohio Right to Life. Bradley Mattes is past vice president of Ohio Right to Life