Monday, March 2

Obituary : Rev. Bill Bichsel, longtime weapons protester and Tacoma-born priest, dead at 86

For nearly 40 years, the Rev. Bill Bichsel protested against U.S. military programs and weapons, resulting in dozens of arrests and making him one of the most visible and admired protesters in the Pacific Northwest.

The Tacoma-born Jesuit priest died Saturday evening. He was 86.

Bichsel, who had a history of heart problems and had been in a coma recently, died peacefully in hospice care at the Catholic community home in Tacoma where he lived.

Bichsel devoted decades to his pursuit of peace, at home and abroad. He protested Trident submarines and nuclear missiles at the Navy’s Bangor submarine base.

He chained himself to the doors of the federal courthouse in Tacoma after the U.S invasion of Iraq.

And he repeatedly protested at the Army’s School of the Americas in Georgia, alleging that it trained Latin American soldiers involved in human rights abuses.

The priest was arrested dozens of times for trespassing during protests.

He was convicted and incarcerated more than a half-dozen times, spending about 21/2 years total in jails and prisons. More quietly, he also helped feed and shelter homeless people in his hometown.

Bichsel was part of the Tacoma Catholic Worker community he co-founded in 1989. When asked during a recent interview if he had any regrets, Bichsel said he wished he had done more.

“I wish I had been more conscious of the call to peace and nonviolence” earlier in life, Bichsel told The News Tribune in August.
He urged people to recognize “the divine works in all people and to trust their calls to reach out to others, to be more human.”

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