Ray Klupenger
Ray Klupenger
One of the founders of Oregon Right to Life died Oct. 22. Ray Klupenger, a Catholic nurseryman and native Portlander, was 81.

When Oregon became one of the first states to legalize abortion in 1969, Klupenger and five friends began work to save unborn children and their mothers from the horrors of abortion. They created Oregon Right to Life in August 1970, 29 months before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide.

Lynda Harrington, former executive director of Oregon Right to Life, said it’s appropriate to give a tribute to Klupenger this month near the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Harrington calls him an “unsung pro-life hero” who put his faith into action.

Klupenger attended the University of Portland before joining the Air National Guard. In 1959, his father asked him and his brother to join the family business, Klupenger Nursery. The nursery eventually moved to Aurora and became the second-largest rhododendron grower in the nation. Klupenger held many leadership positions and won

numerous awards in the Oregon nursery industry.

He was a member of Young Christian Workers, a Catholic group that sought to bring Gospel values to daily life. His work did not deter his pro-life mission.

In January 1973 after Roe v. Wade was handed down, Klupenger stepped up his advocacy.

“As a young mother just starting out in the Oregon pro-life movement, I joined others monthly in a large meeting room above Klupenger’s Nursery in Wilsonville,” said Harrington. “I remember looking around that table and being in awe of those brave souls who were standing up for life. We who followed in Ray’s footsteps are grateful for his leadership and faithfulness.”

The founding group of six went on to recruit doctors, lawyers, nurses and other trained professionals to join Oregon’s pro-life movement.

Joe Kremers, a fellow Central Catholic graduate, called Klupenger “one of the best” in an online tribute. “Ray secured a place in heaven by dedicating himself to the defense of the unborn,” Kremers wrote.

Upon retirement, Klupenger was able to rededicate himself to this mission.

He raised funds for the Pregnancy Care Centers of Canby, was active in the local Knights of Columbus and organized busloads of supporters from various churches to travel to the Oregon Capitol in Salem for the annual Roe v. Wade rallies. He also recruited and organized a small but mighty group of pro-life advocates at St. Cyril Parish in Wilsonville, where a memorial to commemorate unborn children was installed.

“My dad was a very inspirational person with a conviction like no other in doing what he believed was right,” said daughter Karen Gay.

Klupenger’s wife, Candi, recalls that in spite of all of his accomplishments, he was “very humble and never wanted attention.”

Meanwhile, Oregon Right to Life has become the state’s largest and most influential pro-life organization.

“We are so thankful for Ray’s lifetime of service for the unborn, “ said Lois Anderson, Oregon Right to Life’s executive director. “Though he never imagined abortion rights expanding to the levels they are today, we are committed to carrying his legacy and continuing to change the culture of life in Oregon.”