Marilyn L. Szewczyk, 66, foe of abortion

August 08, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Marilyn Lee Szewczyk, an activist in the cause against abortion and founder of Pregnancy Centers of Maryland, died of heart failure Friday at St. Agnes HealthCare. The Catonsville resident was 66.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Ashburton Street, Marilyn Heidecker was a 1954 graduate of Eastern High School.

The wife of a Baltimore police officer and mother of four children, Mrs. Szewczyk helped run Girl Scout troops at St. Agnes Parochial School and at Johnnycake Elementary School in Baltimore County. She also joined community theater companies, including Spotlighters Theatre in Mount Vernon and Hill Street Players in Federal Hill, where she directed a production of George M.

But the cause against abortion became a major focus of her life. Family members said that after the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision of 1972, she embarked on a career as an activist.

"She was one of the earliest persons in Maryland to oppose the Supreme Court decision actively," said Dee Silverman, a friend from Timonium. "She was very organized, and she had a true talent for inspiring people. She truly believed that all people were good. She was well-spoken, kind and would do whatever it took to help."

In 1981, Mrs. Szewczyk founded Pregnancy Centers Inc., which has grown to have offices around the state to offer help to pregnant women. She also founded Maryland Right to Life Action and Auburne Center in Catonsville, a national telephone hot line for pregnancy assistance.

"We always had a cot in the hallway for a pregnant woman," said her daughter, Barbra L. King of Catonsville. "She opened her heart and home. After her own children moved out, she opened all three of her upstairs bedrooms to women who needed a place to stay. She fed them and gave them a home. Sometimes the women stayed on after their children were born."

"If it had to be done, it didn't get past her," said Mary T. Howser of Ellicott City, a friend of 40 years. "The buck stopped with Marilyn. She knew how to delegate authority, and she was a good listener."

Mrs. Szewczyk was a member emeritus of the Roman Catholic Archdiocesan Respect Life Committee. She served on the board of Heartbeat International and was a member of the National Youth Pro-Life Coalition.

In 1991, she received the Archdiocesan Medal of Honor Special Ministry Award. She also was honored by Pro-Life Maryland, Maryland Right to Life, the Lakota Indian School and Women Affirming Life.

Her husband of 42 years, Edward N. Szewczyk Sr., died in 1996.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon today at St. William of York Roman Catholic Church, Cooks Lane and Edmondson Avenue.

Mrs. Szewczyk also is survived by a son, E. Nicholas Szewczyk Jr. of Catonsville; two other daughters, Lynn Anne Sukeena of Gettysburg, Pa., and Cathy E. Krzywicki of Catonsville; her mother, Kathryn E. Heidecker of Catonsville; a sister, Carole Lynn Gottleib of Eldersburg; and 10 grandchildren.

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