“Feisty” and “dedicated” are the words being used to describe Lillian Maguire, a long-time pro-life supporter and activist from Richmond Hill, Ont., who died on Feb. 23 at the age of 81.
Maguire was one of the first demonstrators when Henry Morgentaler opened his flagship abortuary on Harbord Street in Toronto in the early 1980s. In recent years, despite declining health and advancing age, she was still a regular attendee at virtually every major pro-life meeting or event in the Toronto area.
“She spent quite a lot of time in the back lane of Morgentaler’s,” recalled Anne Dobson, who demonstrated with Maguire at the Harbord Street site. “And when any of the politicians were around – (former Ontario premier David) Peterson and others – or there were any special pickets, she was always there.”
Dobson added that Maguire’s feistiness was the quality she most remembered. “You always knew where you stood with her because she never went behind the door about telling anybody off, that’s for sure … She had the kind of spirit where it didn’t worry her what she said.”
Maguire was born in Toronto in 1920 of Lebanese parents. Tragedy struck her early in life, as her husband died in Holland while in action for the Canadian army only a few months after they were married, and only a few weeks after their only child was born.
In later years, it was the pro-life “family” that became her family.
“The pro-life cause was her life,” said Gwen Landolt, a fellow activist with Maguire over many years. “At the funeral, her niece said Lillian’s family was the pro-life family. She was very, very active and never missed a meeting of Campaign Life Coalition or Markham-Richmond Hill Right to Life. She was a member of REAL Women, the Ontario Family Coalition Party and a very staunch supporter of all pro-life, pro-family organizations.”
Landolt noted that Maguire was a devout Christian, with a special devotion to the Virgin Mary and the Catholic Church. She particularly had an attachment to the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, which explains why her funeral was held at the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Holy Protection. The church offers a more traditionally oriented service.
Like Dobson, Landolt remembered Maguire’s feistiness and fearlessness during picketing operations at Morgentaler’s abortuary and outside hospitals.
“I remember once we were picketing the Markham-Stouffville Hospital and we were told we couldn’t go on the grounds because it was private property. That didn’t stop Lillian, and of course, no one could touch her because she was so tiny. She was about four-foot-six. The police wouldn’t go near her for fear she would have a heart attack. She was absolutely fearless.”
In recent years, Landolt pointed to Maguire’s herculean efforts to attend pro-life meetings in the Toronto area, no matter the obstacles. “She would move heaven and earth to attend any meeting that came. She wanted to show her support. She was not a strong, robust person, but that was her life, her dedication.”
Landolt added that Maguire would do “whatever she could” to help the pro-life cause and the unborn child. “She was a marvellous example. Age and ill health never really hindered her.”
Clayton Lee also demonstrated with Maguire at Morgentaler’s Harbord site. He echoed the view that Maguire was feisty and devoted to the pro-life cause. “She was always there. I picketed with her many times … She was quite faithful. And she was consistent in her convictions.”