Francis X. Popper
Francis Xavier Popper was born in
An Army lieutenant in the Pacific during World War II, he received the Silver Star and two Bronze Star Medals. One Bronze Star Medal citation described how Francis, serving in the
In retirement, Francis was active with Holy Family Seminary church in
It was in the Pro-Life movement that most of us came to know and love Francis. I first met him as a prayer warrior near the Cigna Abortuary in
From the Cigna abortuary, Francis moved on to the abortuary on
When things were slow Francis would tell stories or recite poems he remembered. One time when it was exceedingly cold as it sometimes is on a windy winter morning in Washington, Francis by memory quoted, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” by Jack London, just to keep us motivated and our spirits up. He told me stories of his survey work in the boundary waters of
One of the stories from the front lines of the Hillcrest Abortuary concerned Dick Retta, an outstanding sidewalk counselor. Dick would often go down to the abortuary during the week, and Francis would go with him as he didn’t want Dick to go alone and wanted to be there to support him.
In a rare occurrence, a woman and man who had gone into the abortuary later came out and stood near the front door smoking while they waited for the abortionist to arrive. Dick went over to talk to the woman and within a few minutes the man, who did not want Dick to talk his girlfriend out of an abortion, began to assault Dick. He first held his cigarette near Dick’s face, then later threw a drink at him and kicked his bag containing extra flyers which flew all over the sidewalk. Dick had started to call the police using his cell phone when the man grabbed the phone and threw it across the street. He started to leave but then turned around and went after Dick again. It was about this time when Francis came to Dick’s rescue. Francis stepped between the man and Dick, raised his arms and told the guy, “Leave him alone!”
Needless to say, Francis was no match for the younger, stronger man and fell to the ground when the man pushed him. Dick heard someone say, “He knocked the old man down!” At that, the man ran away, and Dick went over to help Francis. Already, two passersby were helping him up. Francis emerged with a few scratches on his face and arm. Police were called, but the man had disappeared. This was another instance of his concern for others rather than his own safety.
Francis’s language was always colorful. One time he participated in a pro-life demonstration in front of a USCCB meeting. When it was over, another demonstrator, Sharon DePoorter, took his arm, saying, “Let me help you so you can go to the next meeting.” Francis replied, “No, go ahead. I don’t want to be a barnacle on the ship of progress.”
As another counselor, Joan McKee stated, “He was always a cheerful presence, and I loved to think he, like Dick Retta, had so many children and was willing to reach out to rescue everyone else's.”
The Hillcrest Abortuary finally closed, and Francis moved on to the Planned Parenthood Abortuary in
Francis had lost his wife, Eunice Kelly Popper, in 1997. He was survived by nine children, 23 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The Pro-Life community will deeply miss Francis X. Popper. It is said that we pro-lifers will meet all of the children we were unable to save when we get to Heaven. I know Francis had a wonderful welcome home.
He was a hero to all of us.
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