WASHINGTON (RNN) - Nellie Gray, an anti-abortion advocate who helped spearhead the March for Life, one of the largest demonstrations in Washington, has died.
The March for Life website said Gray passed away over the weekend. She was 88.
The march is an annual pro-life rally aimed at protesting Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
The first March for Life, held on the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, brought out 20,000 marchers, but has grown through the years. The 2012 march is estimated to have drawn more than 400,000 people.
"Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life," said Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, a pro-life advocacy group. "Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was ‘no exceptions.'"
Gray was born in Big Spring, TX and served in the Women's Army Corps during WWII. She earned a law degree from Georgetown and worked for the federal government for more than two decades in the State and Labor Departments.
After retiring, she became instrumental in launching the march and would for many years serve as its leader.
"Nellie lived a life of heroic service to the unborn. Nellie will be remembered most for her passionate and ardent protection of every life, without exception," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
March for Life administrator Gene Ruane told the Associated Press her death appears to be from natural causes and that he found her body when he came to her home for a meeting. A medical examiner will determine the official cause of death.
Roe v. Wade will mark its 40th anniversary in 2013, which will be the 39th year for the march. Supporters say they'll continue the work Gray started.
"It was an anniversary that broke Nellie Gray's heart every year, and every day," Pavone said. "In January we will march in her memory, in her honor, to save the unborn children to whom she dedicated her life."
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