The Rev. Bill Ichter retires as MMC chaplain
The Rev. Bill Ichter has had great influence over many lives during his 64 years in the ministry.
From his time serving his nation in WWII to his mission work to his time spent spreading the Good News in Minden, Brother Bill has touched lives near and far and all places between.
But in all that time, and in all those places, he says he has never been more gratified than he has the past 12 years serving as chaplain for Minden Medical Center.
"I have met so many people in need. So many families in need of prayer," said Brother Bill, who recently turned 88.
And now the time has come for him to retire, to "hand the reigns over to someone else," he said. His last day as full time chaplain will be December 31. The Rev. Bill Crider will assume hospital chaplain duties January 1.
"It wasn't a job," Brother Bill reflected. "It was an opportunity."
As chaplain, Brother Bill strived to see every patient who came to the hospital unless there were extenuating circumstances that prevented his visit.
There are sad memories, like the time he counseled a woman who had placed her mother on a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate).
"She felt like she was murdering her mother," Brother Bill remembered. "I spoke with her. I prayed with her. I stayed with her."
But there were tender moments, too. Brother Bill loved the nursery and seeing the newborn babies.
"How can anyone deny God exists when they see that little baby there who nine months ago didn't even exist?" he asked.
Brother Bill was born in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, a small coal mining community, as one of two sons to Harold Lester Ichter and Harriet Ellen Tremayne.
In 1942, the family moved to Alexandria, where Bill graduated from Bolton High School in January of 1943. Two days later he enrolled in Louisiana College. He entered the U.S. Army in February of 1944.
He first saw action in the Pirmasens-Bitche area in the Rhineland-Palatinate of Germany. Serving as a scout, he fought against a German SS division, a unit he describes as "hard, good fighters," as well as against youngsters in the Hitlerjugend, composed of "kids fourteen, thirteen years old."
The fighting moved on into Czechoslovakia. He finished the war beside one bank of a river in Steyr, Austria, with Russian troops on the other. He earned a Bronze Star during his service.
While in Europe after the war he served in an army choir and visited Rome, where he and 12 other GIs were granted an audience with Pope Pius.
Brother Bill returned to the states and was discharged as a corporal. He believes some of his post-war experiences in Europe influenced the course of his post-war civilian life, such as his decision to serve as a missionary.
With the financial aid of the GI Bill, he graduated from Louisiana College, where he met his wife, Jerry Catron. Married on June 2, 1949. They would have four children, ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Brother Bill served as minister of music in an Alexandria church, then at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, he earned a master's degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He served as a minister of music in Tangipahoa Parish, and then moved to Brazil to organize a church music department for the Brazil Baptist Convention.
He remained in Brazil 35 years where he served in several endeavors, including director of its foreign missions board. He also directed the Billy Graham Crusade Choir of 11,500 in October of 1974. Bill returned to Louisiana in 1990, joining the staff of First Baptist Minden as Minister to Senior Adults.
He held that position for nine years before retiring and joining the staff of Minden Medical Center.
"I am grateful for Minden Medical Center giving me the opportunity they have all these years," he said. "I wanted to be a doctor before I went into the service, and I think in some way this time has fulfilled my dream a little."
(The R.W. Norton Art Gallery's Oral History Project contributed to this story.)