By Mike Mastromatteo
Leo Patrick Beecher, one of Toronto’s quietest, but most inspirational pro-life, pro-family supporters died June 22, 2000 at the age of 80.
A familiar sight at Campaign Life Coalition’s Toronto offices for many years, Leo Beecher was an unassuming pro-lifer whose gentle resolve in defence of unborn children inspired hundreds of people.
A native of southwestern Ontario, Leo worked for years as a law clerk with a downtown Toronto legal office. He lived in the shadow of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, and spent many hours in prayer there, and at St. Michael’s Cathedral.
For many years active with the Toronto council of the Knights of Columbus, Leo suffered a stroke several years ago, and spent the last years of his life confined to a wheelchair at Province Centre in Toronto. Although his speaking ability was severely limited, he was able to say the words of the Hail Mary, and other prayers.
Long-time friends recall fondly Leo’s devotion to church causes, and his compassionate and caring outlook. In many ways, the Toronto Knights of Columbus Council 1388 became his second home, and he fervently supported many of the Catholic fraternal organization’s charitable causes.
Pat Francis, a past Grand Knight of the Toronto council, recalled a man whose adult life was consumed in seeking an end to abortion. “Leo made a number of sacrifices on behalf of the unborn, including picketing, participating in demonstrations and fund-raising,” Mr. Francis said. “I don’t know how many times I would see him soaking wet from standing out in the rain in protest of abortion.”
Even after he fell ill and was unable to communicate fully, Leo would share his warmth with a smile and a friendly wave to well-wishers. He continued to inspire pro-life supporters from his hospital room. For years, pro-lifers such as the late Tom Brown of Toronto, would visit Leo at Providence Centre, and draw inspiration from him.
Retired Bishop Pearse Lacey of Toronto attended the June 26 funeral Mass for Leo Beecher and offered a few comments afterward. He said Leo’s condition in the last years of his life were akin to a boundless spirit held captive in a weakened physical body. Nonetheless he said Leo’s situation and his positive outlook continued to encourage anyone concerned with the sanctity of all human life.