Deacon Bill Steltemeier, the founding president and longtime chairman of the board of EWTN, died Feb. 15 after an extended illness.
Steltemeier, an associate of EWTN foundress Mother Angelica, passed peacefully on Friday morning in his home in Hanceville, Ala., according to the network.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ramona, and his brother Fred Steltemeier of Nashville, several nieces and their families. He was preceded in death by his son, Rudy Steltemeier, III and daughter-in-law, Debra Steltemeier.
Born in 1929 in Nashville, Steltemeier married his wife in 1953. A year later he graduated from Vanderbilt Law School. After serving in the Army for two years in France, he co-founded the Nashville law firm of Steltemeier & Westbrook, which specializes in bankruptcy and commercial law, and still serves clients in middle-Tennessee with expanded areas of practice.
Steltemeier was ordained as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Nashville in April 1975 by Bishop Joseph Durick. Three years later, while attending a legal convention in Chicago, he met Mother Angelica.
When EWTN was formed in 1980, he 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 EWTN. For 22 years, he commuted each week from his home in Nashville to the network’s headquarters in Irondale, Ala. Upon Mother Angelica’s retirement from active leadership of EWTN in March 2000, Steltemeier became chairman of board and CEO. After retiring as CEO 2009, he continued to serve as chairman of the EWTN’s board of governors until his death.
“Other than Mother Angelica herself, there is no one who has been more closely associated with the mission of EWTN throughout its history than Deacon Bill Steltemeier,” said EWTN president and CEO Michael Warsaw in a statement. “In all respects, he was a man of incredible faithfulness. As a husband, a father, an attorney and in his vocation as a permanent deacon, Bill always remained focused on serving God and serving others. He devoted himself totally to Mother Angelica’s mission and sacrificed all he had to help her build EWTN into the tremendous vehicle for evangelization that it has become. I was privileged to know and work alongside Bill for twenty-five years and to succeed him as president and chief executive of the network he loved so much. While we mourn his passing, we take comfort from his own example of faith and are confident he has heard those words from the Gospel of Matthew, ‘Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master.’ ”
Vespers and the Divine Mercy Chaplet will be prayed on Feb. 18 at 4:30 p.m. (CT) at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala., followed by public visitation. A prayer vigil and rosary is scheduled at 7 p.m. that night. The funeral Mass will be celebrated Feb. 19 at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, with the burial set for 2:30 p.m. that afternoon in Calvary Cemetery in Nashville.
More information about Masses and programs celebraing Stelemeier's life can be found at EWTN’s website, www.ewtn.com. Services may be watched or listened to live on EWTN television by cable or satellite (www.ewtn.com/channelfinder), streaming audio or video on the Internet (http://origin.ewtn.com/audiovideo/index.asp), EWTN mobile (http://www.ewtn.com/mobi/), on the EWTN Radio Network via affiliates (http://www.ewtn.com/radio/amfm.htm), shortwave (http://www.ewtn.com/radio/freq.htm), or on satellite radio (http://www.sirius.com/ewtn).