Denny & Claire Hartford
Denny Hartford has been the Director of Vital Signs Ministries for over 30 years. A courageous and creative Christian activist, Denny has not only led one of the most active, most influential pro-life agencies in the nation, he also has maintained a busy regimen of traveling, speaking and organizing similar ministries across the nation. Denny's popularity as a speaker and inventive educator, however, is based largely upon his own example of personal spirituality and commitment to effectively "rescue those being ledaway to slaughter." For example, he has served for over a quarter of century as a sidewalk counselor at Omaha-area abortion mills and was one of the first evangelicals to be involved in peaceful "rescue" actions. In addition, Denny and his wife, Claire, were the principal founders of the AAA Center for Pregnancy Counseling (Now Assuire Women's Center)
Denny's contributions to the Omaha community and especially the pro-life movement have been recognized in several ways. In 1984, he was asked by Nebraska State Senator Bernice Labedz and then-Governor Robert Kerrey to accept a position as the 7th District's State Senator when it was unexpectedly vacated, but Denny decided he could better serve the cause of Christ and His "little ones" as a non-political Christian activist and, remarkably, he declined this prestigious offer. Denny's work has been gratefully acknowledged by such outstanding leaders as Joe Scheidler; the Director of Boys Town, Fr. Val Peter; Judie Brown; the late U.S. Senator Edward Zorinsky, Governor Kay Orr; Congressman and Mayor Hal Daub; and even President Ronald Reagan. Wrote President Reagan in September of 1985: "There is no cause more noble, no cause more necessary, than to restore full legal protection to innocent unborn children...You have been in the thick of the struggle, and your courage and effectiveness have inspired many others...God bless you."
Under Denny's leadership, Vital Signs Ministries has untiringly championed the sanctity of all human life in a variety of services. Indeed, a hallmark of the ministry is a defense of the sanctity of human life which is 1) comprehensive and 2) deeply grounded in the Word of God. In the course of Denny's wide-ranging service, he has organized and conducted peaceful, prayerful demonstrations against the abortion industry; developed a daily sidewalk counseling ministry outside Omaha's abortion clinics; created an inspirational drama outreach; hosted numerous pro-life conferences and public educational outreaches; initiated regular visitations of area elders in nursing homes; created a ongoing entertainment and visitation in senior care facilities called "When Swing Was King" (which you can read about in detail elsewhere on this website) and more.
Through all of this, Denny has continued a ministry of inspirational and informational public speaking, testifying before innumerable audiences throughout the U.S. and in Canada, Great Britain (three month-long tours), Germany, Russia, Nigeria, India, Poland (3x), Burkina Faso, and ten times in Belarus regarding the case for the sanctity of life, the gracious invitation of the gospel, and the necessity of Christian activism. It is a responsibility that has involved him with civic groups, churches, schools, pro-life events, the state Legislature and hundreds of media interviews.
In specific media outreaches, Denny has produced and hosted the radio programs "Doers of the Word," "Vital Signs," and "Vital Signs Weekend." These popular programs have featured not only Denny's own insightful commentary regarding a whole host of critical issues, but the perspectives of innumerable Christian leaders who brought their learning and experience to bear on these matters. Those Christian heroes have included: Melody Green; Edith Schaeffer; John Whitehead; Frank Peretti; Scott Wesley Brown; Joe Scheidler; Molly Kelly; Meadowlark Lemon; Chris Godfrey; Sal Bando; Judie Brown; Larry Norman; Randy Stonehill; Norm Geisler; James Mills; UNL Coaches Tom Osborne, Turner Gill, and Ron Brown; Dave Breese; Joseph Sobran; Dr. Jack Willke; Alan Keyes; Joni Eareckson-Tada; Calvin Miller; Rep. J.C. Watts; Phyliss Schlafly; Terry Talbot; Ray Boltz; Marvin Olasky; Governor Kay Orr; Erwin Lutzer; John Walvoord; Rosie Grier; Dave Dravecky; Walter Wanegrin; Os Guinness; Sherword Wirt; Senator Bill Armstrong; country music superstar, Charlie Daniels; Steven Curtis Chapman; Mary Beth Bonacci; Carol Everett; A.C. Green; Randy Alcorn; Congressman and Mayor, Hal Daub; and many more.
Denny possesses a Bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, graduating magna cum laude, and a Master's degree in History from the same institution. Now 63, Denny has been a Christian since the spring of 1970 when he was converted to the Faith through the ministry of Young Life in his home state of Colorado. Denny later moved to Omaha where he worked with an inner-city evangelism and discipleship ministry, the Christian Brotherhood. Following his marriage, Denny's primary Christian service was conducted through his church, home Bible studies, Inter-Varsity Fellowship and Metro Right to Life until helping found the Omaha Christian Action Council in 1982. He and Claire (a former high school English instructor and now a leading pro-life activist herself) have been married 43 years. For seven years, Denny was the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska.
Claire Hartford (actually, Claire Marie Theresa Aylward Hartford!) was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. She was the oldest daughter in a family of eight children and was educated at Cathedral School and later at Pius X High School. Being very close to their father, it was a severe tragedy for the kids to lose him to a massive heart attack when he was a relatively young man. Claire's mother, Evelyn, bravely took over the helm, raising the children even as she returned to work to provide for them. Claire was 12 when her dad died.
Graduating from Pius in 1970, Claire migrated north to Omaha to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha. As a freshman, she shared an apartment with high school friends and waited tables while beginning her preparation to be an English teacher. But her university career was put on hold for awhile after that tumultuous first year - a year in which 1) she made the momentous decision to receive Christ as her personal Savior and 2) by accepting Denny's proposal of marriage. They were wed November 4, 1971.
Claire returned to UNO in 1974, eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education (English and Journalism). She started teaching at Bellevue East High School in January of 1977 and was an effective, popular teacher there. She "retired" however in 1986 in order to assume full-time duties with Vital Signs Ministries. Those tasks have involved arranging and overseeing Denny's schedule, running the computer, correspondence and phone contact, organization, finances, occasional speaking, and participation in virtually all of Vital Signs' outreach. Claire has also served during all of our 30 years of ministry as our primary sidewalk counselor and was a key leader in the AAA Crisis Pregnancy Center. She has also accompanied Denny in travels to Germany, England, Poland, Canada and various locations around the States.
Claire has a passion for literature. In fact, she and Denny formed the Notting Hill Napoleons Literary Society which has been reading and discussing quality books for over 20 years. They also love gardening and lawn work, old movies, entertaining and music, everything from classical to big band to classic rock and roll.