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an unsung hero of the pro-life movement

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 28, 2011

This year Larry Filiault organized a busload of pro-lifers from around Greenfield, Massachusetts, to attend the March for Life in Washington, as he had done so many times in the past. But this year Larry himself couldn’t make that trip. Surrounded by his family and nourished by the sacraments, Larry died on January 22 (that date again!) of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Most of the people who read this column have probably never heard of Larry Filiault. But if you’re fortunate, perhaps you know someone like him. His death reminded me how much we all owe to the loyal foot-soldiers, the tireless organizers, the generous volunteers, the unsung heroes of the pro-life movement.

Until 2000, I had never spent much time in Greenfield. But when a Senate campaign took me all around Massachusetts searching for pro-life supporters, I quickly discovered that in that part of the state, Larry was always at the center of things.

You might recognize the type: Larry was the director of religious education simultaneously for two parishes. He ran a Catholic men’s group. He was an active board member and fundraiser for Catholic schools and pregnancy-resource centers. And whenever the pro-life movement needed something done, there was Larry with his sleeves rolled up.

After giving a talk at a luncheon that he had organized in 2000, I wanted to thank Larry before hurrying off to my next engagement. It took me quite a while to find him. He was alone in the kitchen, washing dishes. “I figured that I’m not needed out there,” Larry said, nodding toward the hall where the party was still going strong. “So I might as well do something useful.” Not needed? Baloney! If Larry hadn’t done the work beforehand, there might never have been a party that day. But now that the preparations were complete, and everyone else was enjoying the results of his efforts, Larry had already moved on to the next task. Typical.

A few years later, I ran into Larry at another social event and greeted him. He was stunned that I remembered his name, and began raving about my memory. This too was typical of this self-effacing man. Rather than entertaining the possibility that he himself might be worth remembering, instead Larry saw a virtue (a good memory) in someone else.

Well, let me now correct the record. Despite Larry’s efforts, I lost that 2000 Senate race. (The late Ted Kennedy edged me out, by a margin of just over 1 million votes.) But later I would tell my friends that during the political campaign I had identified the most effective, reliable pro-life activists in the state, who could form the backbone of some other candidate’s future campaign. Whenever I said that, I was thinking first and foremost of Larry Filiault. He died too soon to see the victory of the pro-life movement in America, but when that day comes, it will be due to the work of indefatigable, selfless people like him.

Please say a quick prayer for the repose of Larry’s soul, for the comfort of his widow Maureen, for their 4 children and their grandchildren. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for all the unsung heroes of the pro-life movement, who give so much and ask so little. And ask God to raise up a half-dozen good men for the pro-life movement in Greenfield. That’s about what it will take to replace Larry. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jtuturic3013 - Feb. 03, 2011 12:59 PM ET USA

    I knew Larry personally and found him to be a good man. The first ever March for Life I went to was due to his generosity. Six years ago I went to the evening prayer vigil with Adoration to kick off a red eye bus trip to the March. When the service ended, I went with a friend to wish Larry well on the trip as the bus was loading since I had not purchased a ticket and had no money to afford the trip. Within a few minutes, Larry had "donated" a seat to me and later gave me money for food.

  • Posted by: pauljworthington637024 - Jan. 31, 2011 10:37 AM ET USA

    May he rest in peace. Pray that he will do our bidding before God Almighty, just as he had done in his Earthly life. Good night, good servant.

  • Posted by: voxfem - Jan. 29, 2011 7:22 AM ET USA

    May eternal light shine upon him and may he rest in peace.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2011 11:45 PM ET USA

    Larry was (is) my friend. Even as he lay dying he was concerned more about others than himself. I will always love him. There are no tears in heaven and now he can stand again. Remember him. But he would.say, remember Jesus. I love you Larry. Rest in peace.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2011 6:53 PM ET USA

    His life sets us a good example.