“Keep up the fight for life.”
The last statement published by David Gittrich summarized his sense of purpose for the past 35 years: an unending, irrepressible drive to protect the unborn.
Gittrich died of kidney cancer Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph in Wichita. He was 71.
A funeral Mass was celebrated at Monday, Oct. 23, at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita. Fifteen priests of the Diocese of Wichita celebrated the Mass.
Father Curtis Hecker, the main celebrant, told the overflowing church that he always felt special knowing that he was Gittrich’s godson – until he found out that the pro-life stalwart was godfather “to half of the children in Wichita.”
He said Gittrich lived an honorable life, adding that he was the single-most powerful pro-life force he had ever known.
“That conviction drove him to do what he did day-in and day-out,” Father Hecker said, urging those at the funeral to continue Gittrich’s work – and reminding them that life is short.
The pro-life battle isn’t over, he said, and the pro-lifers have lost a general.
Father Hecker also read a letter from Bishop James D. Conley, a priest ordained for the Diocese of Wichita who is now bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, who talked about meeting Gittrich in 1985 and how he worked closely with him for years.
As a result, “I spent a lot of time in jail with David,” the bishop said, referring to the Summer of Mercy protests in front of the abortion clinic in Wichita that resulted in arrests of clergy and other pro-lifers.
Bishop Conley said the incarceration was a gift, in that he felt like one of the early apostles, imprisoned for his beliefs.
Alluding to David in the Old Testament, Bishop Conley wrote that God used David Gittrich in a mighty way, adding that Gittrich “faced the evil Goliaths of our day.”
In a statement released by Kansans for Life hours before his death, Gittrich wrote:
“Thank you for your prayers. Cancer is winning… I’d love to tell you all how much I love you… You can visit, but just to say goodbye, no visiting, or you can send cards if you want to. Pray for a peaceful death with no suffering. Keep up the fight for life.”
Gittrich was born on Dec. 20, 1946, in Wichita. He attended Blessed Sacrament School and graduated in 1964 from Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School. In 1982 he was managing the Maize Food Mart, one of four grocery stores owned by his father, when a friend showed Gittrich the pro-life documentary “Assignment Life.”
That began his unrelenting drive to protect the unborn.
He became involved in pro-life groups and with like-minded individuals incorporated Kansans for Life. Gittrich became the executive director of KFL in 1989 and helped organize community pro-life groups. At one point there were 85 KFL chapters in the state.
He served as executive director until 2000 when he moved to Kansas City to serve as director of the Respect Life office for the archdiocese. He returned to Kansans for Life in 2002 and served as development director until his death.
Bonnie Toombs, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Office, described Gittrich as being passionate about protecting the lives of the unborn.
“He spent a great deal of time establishing a strong grassroots presence in Kansas to speak out at every level of government for the most vulnerable – and he loved doing it. I will miss having David to share ideas with, and to learn what his next plan was going to be.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said in a statement: “David lived his life to fight for the lives of others, and we are so grateful.”
Roberts added that Gittrich worked at a time when few people understood the severity regarding the issue of life. “He led the charge in the battle to protect the lives of our most vulnerable, and built a grassroots army through education and compassion. His advocacy changed the political landscape in Kansas.

Evening of Appreciation Nov. 8
Kansans for Life has planned an “Night of Appreciation for David Gittrich” on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita. The doors will open at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7. The event was planned before Gittrich’s death, and will still go forward.