Husband, father, attorney, and permanent deacon of the Church, Deacon Bill Steltemeier was known to television viewers around the world as the longtime associate of Mother Angelica, EWTN's foundress. 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, to the late Rudolph William Steltemeier, Sr., and Mary Ione (Phippen) Steltemeier, Deacon Bill Steltemeier attended Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, Missouri and Vanderbilt University. He married Ramona Schnupp on August 22, 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 specializing in bankruptcy and commercial law. After fifty 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 7-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. While Mother Angelica was speaking, Deacon Bill heard an interior voice say to him, "Until the day you die." He knew from that moment that his life would be dedicated to serving Mother Angelica.
When EWTN was formed in 1980, Deacon Bill 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 twenty-two 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 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.