Human Interest

Three decades after abandoned newborn’s death, community continues to remember her

Earlier this month, residents of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area held the 33rd Annual Respect for Life March. The event is a time of prayer for the respect of all human life and a commemoration of Baby Agnes Doe.

In 1987, the Pennsylvania community was stunned when a dog discovered the decomposing body of a newborn girl in a wooded area near Bellewood, Pennsylvania. After an extensive investigation that did not yield any information about the baby’s identity, the body was given to a local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. The group named the baby Agnes after St. Agnes, the patron saint of little girls, and organized a funeral and burial. The group has organized the annual march every year since.

The march begins with prayer at St. Matthew’s Church in Tyrone and participants then walk about a mile from the church to Oak Grove Cemetery to the grave of Baby Agnes. “This is not symbolic. This was a child. This was a fellow Pennsylvanian whose life was taken from us at about 5 days of age,” Peter Kreckel, director of Respect for Life, told WJAC. “We’re all defenseless at a point in our life, and we need to see the need to respect life at all the stages, and that’s what baby Agnes does.”

 

A fact sheet about Baby Agnes and her legacy states that the march draws around 150 people each year. News reports from 2017 indicate that hundreds participated to mark the 30th anniversary of Baby Agnes’s death.

The event is not political, and marchers only carry signs promoting respect for human life at all stages. Bill Stadtmiller, a marcher in 2017, explained, “We’re not making it our job to change laws, but we can change how people feel about it and change hearts.”

Despite her brief life, Baby Agnes has had a profound effect on her community. “I hope that one day that we can all say we’ve made half the impact that she’s made on the community,” Gretchen Garofoli told WJAC.

Like Baby Agnes, many newborns continue to be abandoned in rural areas. Safe Haven laws have been enacted in all 50 states to encourage parents in desperate situations to safely surrender newborns to authorities without facing penalties. Stories like Baby Agnes’s show the immeasurable value of every human life and the loss to every community when even one precious life is lost.

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