When it comes to the pro-life movement in Delaware, no one made things move more than Dolores “Dee” Becker. The stalwart of the state and national drive to promote life died April 13 in Glen Mills, Pa., where she had been residing. She was 93.
Her pro-life crusade began in earnest in 1969 when she traveled to Dover from her home in Brandywine Hundred, according to a 2006 article in The Dialog. Becker was at Legislative Hall when the General Assembly voted to repeal Delaware’s anti-abortion laws. Becker told The Dialog that she promised God at that moment that she would never quit the fight for life.
Over the next 50 years, she kept her word. She began to organize pro-lifers in the state and formed Delaware Right to Life in 1973. The organization held its first meeting within weeks of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. For several years, she co-chaired the national March for Life with Nellie Gray, who founded the march. In fact, Becker was vice president of the organization.
She told The Dialog that she was so busy on the day of the march each January that she often went without lunch. When he became aware of that, the late Bishop Robert Mulvee of Wilmington would bring her a sandwich.
“One year, his housekeeper was sick, so he made it himself,” Becker recalled in 2006. “It was ham.”
Bess McAneny, president of the Delaware Pro-Life Coalition, knew Becker for 45 years. She said Becker was an activist and an educator who for years organized annual conventions in Delaware that were primarily educational in nature.
“She was a very courageous woman,” McAneny said. “She was the epitome of the right kind of feminism. A holy woman, and a strong woman.”
Another prominent Delaware pro-life proponent, Betty O’Malley, called her “the queen of the pro-life movement.”
“The woman was just phenomenal. She was an inspiration to so many people,” said O’Malley, who first met Becker in 1973.
O’Malley remembered that in the early years of the March for Life, Becker and Gray would always address the Delaware contingent before the event.
In addition to Delaware Right to Life, Becker was a founder of Birthright and the Delaware Pro-Life Coalition. She also was active in charities such as Easter Seals and the March of Dimes.
Becker graduated from high school in Reading, Pa., on June 6, 1944, which happened to be D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches in Normandy, France, during World War II. She told The Dialog that she played saxophone in the band and acted in school plays. She performed in community theater and had her own radio and television programs in Reading.
She and her husband, Dick, had seven children that they raised in north Wilmington. They were members of the Church of the Holy Child, a parish she had an indirect influence in naming.
In 2013, when the late Father William Jennings celebrated his 100th birthday at the Jeanne Jugan Residence, the priest recalled how the parish, of which he was the founding pastor, got its name. Becker had called Father Jennings after that trip to Dover, distraught about the legislation. Father Jennings had wanted to name the parish in honor of Mary, but the late Bishop Thomas Mardaga said there were enough parishes with Mary-related names. They settled on a name, and Father Jennings gave Becker a call.
“He said, ‘I thought of a name after talking with you. We’ll call it Church of the Holy Child,’” Becker recalled at the birthday party.
McAneny credited Becker with making sure the pro-life movement in the state looked beyond abortion.
“Once you decide that one life is not worth it, then this progresses to other lives, and it did. She was preparing us. As a result of that, we have a very strong pro-life voice in Delaware,” she said.
Despite her advancing years, Becker remained a strong presence in the movement, according to McAneny. “As long as she could, she still had a voice, and you listened to that voice.”
Despite declining abortion rates, more sympathetic courts and the progress some states had made against abortion, Becker in 2006 fretted about the task of outlawing the procedure.
“I only hope and pray people will wake up. I hope young people are smarter than the Baby Boomers,” she said. “But we can’t be so conceited as to think that it will happen when we want; it’s God’s time.”