Frank Mountain may have spent the last 20 years of his life confined to a wheelchair, following a 1988 car accident that left him a quadriplegic, but his physical condition never for a moment slowed him down as one of the most active, tireless, and successful activists in Canada?s pro-life movement.
Pro-life Canadians are mourning the loss of the man whose peer in single-minded devotion to the equality of Canada?s unborn children would be difficult to find. At the age of 75, he passed away early on Oct. 31 after a lingering illness.
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, recalled his nearly three decades spent working alongside Mountain in the fight for the rights of the unborn and described him as an “outstanding pro-lifer, a tremendous example to everybody” and as one of the “rock-solid” activists who “knew it in their guts as well as in their heads that killing children was wrong.”
Karen Murawsky, another longtime pro-lifer and former director of Campaign Life Coalition?s Ottawa office, described Mounain as the “heart and soul” of the pro-life movement in Ottawa: a man of indefatigable stamina who, following his paralysis, intensified his efforts to protect Canada?s most innocent and vulnerable citizens.
Murawsky recalled that Mountain, ever bristling with energy and ever blunt and forthright with his opinions, never cut an inconspicuous figure. Indeed, most who think of him will immediately recall one or another of his vehicles, which he unapologetically transformed into the most visible testaments of his views on the evils of abortion.
Many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Canadians may recall their fleeting contact with Mountain: as he drove past them in one or another of his series of cars or vans, emblazoned with large, eye-catching figures: “Abortion kills babies.” Murawsky says she knows of at least two mothers who decided against aborting their children, simply by having seen the lettering on Mountain?s vehicles.
The manner in which he lost his mobility, as tragic as it was, was nevertheless strangely fitting for the man who could conceive of no more pressing cause to give his life for than the right to life of the unborn. It was on a Sunday in early 1988, while en route to a weekly pro-life picket in front of an Ottawa hospital, that Mountain swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The station wagon veered off the road and rolled. Despite the fact Mountain?s wife, Margaret, and five children were also all in the car, Frank was the only one who was hurt.
One indirect result of the tragedy was one of the most memorable events of Mountain?s life – a personal encounter with Mother Teresa. The founder of the Missionaries of Charity and Nobel Peace Prize winner happened to be in Ottawa shortly after the accident and, when told about Mountain and the fact that he had been injured en route to a pro-life picket, altered her schedule to visit him in the hospice where he was recovering.
Such an injury, which would undoubtedly have caused many an individual and family to turn inwards in self-pity, was instead accepted as a challenge to be faced. Margaret Mountain, as devoted a wife as has ever lived, uncomplainingly shouldered the huge responsibilities of caring for a quadriplegic husband, while Frank soldiered on as fearlessly as ever, learning to adapt, but not to be hindered, by his limitations.
Murawsky echoed the thoughts of many who observed the interaction between Frank and Margaret when she observed, “I don?t think I could explain to you how much he depends on Margie, his wife, and how good she is, how unbelievable she is. I don?t know how you would write that up.”
After the accident, Mountain and his family continued to attend the weekly picket at the hospital – a picket he had originally organized and for which he had applied and received a city permit “in perpetuity.” Even up until the final months of his life, Murawsky said, Mountain continued to attend the picket once a month, despite his worsening condition.
Hughes laughed when asked if he thought the accident changed Mountain at all. “There was no stopping the guy,” he said. “You?d think that with the accident he would have changed considerably, but he was the same guy.” Murawsky says that once he got out of the hospital and got his electric wheelchair, “He hasn?t stopped since.”
“He still had so much pro-life work to do,” said Hughes, “that the good Lord saw to it that he had another 20 years.”
He served as co-chair of the National March for Life since its inception and organized initiatives such as the Hike for Life and Pennies for Life. He was always a visible figure at the March, where he would weave in and out amongst the crowds in his wheelchair, drumming up donations, introducing speakers or speaking himself. Under his guidance, the March has become the largest annual pro-life event in Canada. This year, it attracted approximately 8,000 participants, mostly youth, and the event only shows signs of growing.
Mountain lived just long enough to see all three of his youngest children married. This past summer, Mary-Ann, Mary-Teresa and David were all married within about a four-month period of each other.
All who knew Frank Mountain agree: Canada?s unborn children have lost one of their greatest champions and defenders and the country as a whole is impoverished as a result.
Fr. Ted Colleton, another great Canadian pro-life activist, penned an article about Mountain for The Interim after meeting him in 1988, in which he expressed his heartfelt admiration for the man and his sense of having been humbled simply by being in his presence. “The two virtues that were apparent to me in observing Frank were trust and peace,” wrote the pro-life priest, who met Mountain some three months after his accident.
“For a schoolteacher with a wife and five small children ? to be struck down by a seemingly meaningless accident can certainly be seen as a tragedy. Frank does not view it as such. It is a complete change of life for him and Margaret and the family. But he sees it as a challenge and he has risen to meet it. He has no doubt about the fact that it is his faith that has given him the courage to accept what has occurred. And two of the corollaries of faith are trust and peace.”
Colleton concluded, “When I was leaving, Frank asked me for my blessing and expressed himself as being grateful that I had taken the time to visit him. But, as I left, I felt it was I who had benefited most from a visit to a remarkable man.”
A version of this article originally appeared Oct. 31 at LifeSiteNews.com and is reprinted with permission.