Deacon Bill Steltemeier, founding president and chairman of the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network, has died after an extended illness at age 83.
Steltemeier was known to television viewers around the world as the long-time associate of Mother Angelica, EWTN's founder. He gave up a successful law practice to dedicate his time to assisting Mother Angelica in establishing and operating EWTN.
Born in 1929 in Nashville, Tennessee, Steltemeier attended Chaminade College Preparatory School in St Louis, Missouri and Vanderbilt University. He married Ramona Schnupp on 22 August 1953. A year later, after graduating from Vanderbilt Law School, Bill entered the United States Army and served for two years in France. In 1960, he co-founded the Nashville law firm of Steltemeier & Westbrook, specialising in bankruptcy and commercial law. After 50 years, the firm is still serving clients in middle-Tennessee with expanded areas of practice.
Both as a lawyer and committed Catholic, Steltemeier co-founded a prison Junior Chamber of Commerce programme, and served on the boards of the 7-Step Foundation, Operation Comeback and the Dismas House, which are organisations dedicated to helping former prisoners transform their lives. In 1975, he was appointed by the Governor of Tennessee to the state's review board for prison reform.
He was ordained as deacon on 26 April 1975, in the Diocese of Nashville by Bishop Joseph A Durick. Following his ordination he was appointed Catholic Chaplain to the Tennessee State Prison for Men.
In 1978, while attending a legal convention in Chicago, Deacon Bill first encountered Mother Mary Angelica. While Mother Angelica was speaking, Deacon Bill heard an interior voice say to him: "Until the day you die". He said that he knew from that moment that his life would be dedicated to serving Mother Angelica.
When EWTN was formed in 1980, Deacon Bill, as he was known, became the network's first president and board member. In 1985, he resigned from his law firm to dedicate himself to the full-time service of Mother Angelica and EWTN. For 22 years, he commuted each week from his home in Nashville to the network's headquarters in Irondale.
Upon Mother Angelica's retirement from active leadership of EWTN in March of 2000, Deacon Bill took over the offices of chairman of the board and CEO. Though he retired from the role of chief executive in 2009, he continued to serve as chairman of the Network's Board of Governors until his death.
In October 2009, Deacon Bill was awarded the Pontifical Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of his lifetime of extraordinary service to the Church.
Deacon Bill Steltemeier is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ramona, who lives in Hanceville, Alabama, where they moved in 2002, his brother Fred Steltemeier of Nashville, and several nieces and their families. He was preceded in death by his son, Rudy Steltemeier, and daughter-in-law Debra Steltemeier.