Deacon R. William Steltemeier Jr.
Deacon R. William Steltemeier, Jr., 83, died peacefully at his home in Hanceville, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, following a lengthy illness. He was the long-time associate of Mother Mary Angelica and the founding president of the Irondale, Alabama-based EWTN Global Catholic Network, where he served as board chairman until his death.
Born June 6, 1929 in Nashville, Tenn., to Rudolph William Steltemeier Sr. and Mary Ione Phippen Steltemeier, Deacon Bill graduated from Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, Mo. in 1948. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Vanderbilt University in 1952 and married Ramona Schnupp on Aug. 22, 1953. After graduating from Vanderbilt Law School in 1954, 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 specializing 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 as a committed Catholic, Bill served his community in many ways. For more than three decades, he was engaged in assisting prisoners in both their civil and spiritual rehabilitation. He co-founded a prison Junior Chamber of Commerce program, and served on the boards of the Seven-Step Foundation, Operation Comeback, and the Dismas House, organizations 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.
Of greatest significance, however, was his ordination on April 26, 1975, as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Nashville by Bishop Joseph A. Durick. Deacon Bill was among the first men in the United States to be ordained to the permanent diaconate. Following his ordination he was appointed Catholic Chaplain to the Tennessee State Prison for Men.
On March 9, 1978, while attending a legal convention in Chicago, Deacon Bill first encountered Mother Mary Angelica. When EWTN was formed in 1980, Deacon Bill became the Network’s first President and a founding board member. In 1985, he resigned from his law firm to dedicate himself full-time to Mother Angelica and EWTN. For 22 years, Bill would commute 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 Chief Executive Officer. 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 May 2008, the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, was conferred upon Deacon Bill by Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla. in recognition of his accomplishments and service to the Catholic Church.
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 III and daughter-in-law, Debra Steltemeier.
Services at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville will be as follows: Vespers and Divine Mercy Chaplet at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18; followed by visitation from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. and Vigil and Holy Rosary at 7 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19. Committal and burial will take place at Calvary Cemetery in Nashville. Please see EWTN’s website (www.ewtn.com) for more information.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the following: EWTN Global Catholic Network, 5817 Old Leeds Road, Irondale, Alabama 35210; Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, 3222 County Road 548, Hanceville, Alabama 35077; or the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, 5821 Old Leeds Road, Irondale, Alabama 35210.