Deacon Bill Steltemeier of EWTN dies

A giant in Catholic broadcasting—and one of the most familiar and recognizable deacons in America—has died.

From the National Catholic Register: 

Deacon R. William Steltemeier Jr., died on Feb. 15 at age 83 after an extended illness. Familiar to Eternal Word Television Network’s international family of viewers, for three decades he had been a faithful servant for Mother Angelica and the mission of EWTN.

He is survived by Ramona, his wife of 59 years. He was preceded in death by his son, Rudy Steltemeier III, and daughter-in-law Debra Steltemeier. Funeral arrangements are still pending.

Born in Nashville, Tenn., on June 6, 1929, to the late Rudolph William Steltemeier and Mary Ione (Phippen) Steltemeier, Deacon Bill attended Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis and then received his college education in his native city before serving both the Church and the extended community there.

He married Ramona (Schnupp) Steltemeier on Aug. 22, 1953, and the following year received his law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville. He then served two years in the U.S. Army in France.

By 1960, attorney Steltemeier had become a co-founder of Steltemeier & Westbrook, a Nashville law practice that ultimately became one of the nation’s leading firms specializing in reorganization, bankruptcy and commercial law.

Deacon Bill’s longtime association with Mother Mary Angelica, EWTN’s foundress, began when he met her on March 9, 1978. Soon after, he became the founding president and a board member of Eternal Word Television Network when it was formed in 1980 and began commuting weekly from his Nashville home to EWTN’s base in Irondale, Ala., outside of Birmingham.

In 1985, he resigned from his law firm to devote himself full time to EWTN, serving as friend, adviser and attorney for the many apostolic works of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery and EWTN.

Already in the 1960s, Deacon Bill had joined his commitment as a Catholic with his legal expertise, especially with major roles in helping rehabilitate prisoners both spiritually and socially. Among his accomplishments, he co-founded the Junior Chamber of Commerce for the Tennessee Prison System, was a board member of the 7-Step Foundation and Operation Comeback, then was appointed to the Commissioner’s Review Board on prison reform in 1975 by the governor of Tennessee.

At the same time, for the Diocese of Nashville he was highly active in the rehabilitation of prisoners as a board member of Dismas House, a halfway program. He was ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Nashville on April 26, 1975, by Bishop Joseph Durick and was among the first men in the nation to be ordained to the recently reinstated permanent diaconate.

Shortly after Bill’s ordination to the diaconate, he was appointed Catholic chaplain for the Tennessee State Prison for Men. Deacon Bill was also lay director of the diocesan Catholic Cursillo movement.

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Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him… 


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