The following is excerpted from From Bullet to Bullhorn: Stories of Advocacy Activism and Hope, by Lois Schaffer, a compilation of stories by 18 people located in various states throughout the U.S.  These stories are indicative of human resilience, turning tragedies into advocacy, activism and the preservation of life.

Christine Ilewski Huelsmann: St. Louis Missouri: 

On May 16, 2009, I woke up to a phone call.  A close friend, Fr. Lorenzo (Larry) Rosebaugh, OMI (a Missionary Oblate Immaculate priest) had been gunned down in Guatemala. There was no apparent motive. The car he was driving with three other priests was stopped on the road and his life was taken in an instant.

Gone So Fast

A life dedicated to social justice and the poorest of the poor was gone so quickly. He lived through the civil rights movement, hitchhiked and biked to South America several times, lived through civil wars, comforted and cared for countless poor. He had just turned 75 two days earlier. Gone so fast. Gone. Guns are so immediate.

Thirty-five years ago, I got a similar phone call: my father had committed suicide, also by a gun. I was 20 and unable to process it. I shut down emotionally at the time, going through the motions. Quickly packing a suitcase. Getting on a flight. Planning a funeral. Feeling very much out of my body, watching myself from a distance.

The hardest part of writing this, even now, is lifting the silence. It took years to speak about it. There is so much shame associated with suicide and gun violence in general. It only happens to “others” in “those neighborhoods.”

Art Brings Hope

My art work has always been personal. Ultimately, I brought my art to this anti-violence work. I started the “Faces Not Forgotten” project.

I don’t think I connected the Faces project to Dad in the beginning at all. All I knew is I wanted to do something to remember Lorenzo by something, and to remember young lives lost so early because of gun violence. I had no idea of the numbers of young deaths there are. On average 8 a day age 20 and under, due to gun violence.

I just did a portrait of one young man, William Jenkins, for his dad, Bill. Bill had made a website in his honor, including his son’s photo. I contacted Bill and asked if I could paint a portrait of William for him. His dad said yes, and I painted William in watercolor.

Art Brings Hope to Others

The paint seemed to just flow into place. His eyes so bright and young. He seemed to come alive on the paper. He was 16 when he was gunned down in a robbery at the fast food restaurant he had just started working at. Afterward mailing it to Bill I asked if it had given him comfort. And did he think other families would want a portrait. Bill said yes and helped me to create a release form for families to submit photos of their loved ones that we still use today.

I painted more portraits of young gun violence victims for their families. I made the first copies on handkerchiefs by hand, “Faces Not Forgotten” and exhibited them in churches, galleries. a pop-up exhibit in a U-haul I drove around St. Louis, Missouri and in marches honoring the children and protesting gun violence. It became emotionally exhausting to paint these young faces but I couldn’t stop.

I am heartbroken with each story, each portrait we do. But I can’t stop. These children are not numbers or statistics. Each one of them has a face that I don’t want forgotten.

I am in the battle for the long haul. And I think of my dad a lot more often, well as Lorenzo, hoping that their lives have gained more meaning through this remembrance.

Mother Responds to Gun Violence


Lois Schaffer

My past activities include: employment as a grants writer for non-profit organizations; namely, the Pearl Lang Dance Foundation and the affordable housing developer; Kimmel Housing Foundation. I have participated in marches and rallies in support of civil rights and to protest the war in Vietnam. I have been a gun safety advocate my entire life helping to enact sensible gun safety legislation on the state and federal levels. I am a Long Island, New York resident. In 1993, Carolyn McCarthy's husband and son were shot in the Long Island Railroad massacre. Carolyn McCarthy's congressional candidacy was initiated after the massacre and I was totally involved in her campaign.Ironically, from an advocate, I became a victim but consider myself a survivor. My daughter, a single working mother was killed by a teenaged burglar in possession of a stolen handgun. I had to do something, not only to honor the memory of my daughter, but to use as a platform in protest of the easy accessibility if guns and the power and greed of the National Rifle Association. So, "The Unthinkable: Life, Loss and a Mother's Mission to Ban Illegal Guns" was written and published by the first rate publisher, The Brown Publishing Group. The book has provided me with many opportunities to speak at various venues to raise awareness of the escalation of gun violence and what our society can do to counteract it.

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