The following story appeared in the April 7 Idaho Catholic Register.
Deacon Bill Petzak, an avid outdoorsman, spent his entire career working for the Idaho Department of Lands. He was based in several cities throughout the state. (ICR file photo)
Deacon William Joseph “Bill” Petzak, who served the Diocese of Boise as a deacon for 38 years, passed away, Friday, March 24, 2023 at his home.
Ordained to the diaconate on Feb. 18, 1980, by Bishop Sylvester Treinen, Deacon Petzak served at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in McCall for 20 years and then for another 18 years at St. Mary’s in Boise, retiring in 2018.
During his funeral homily, Father John Worster, pastor at St. Mary’s Parish, referred to the obituary, which described Deacon Petzak as “exasperating, infuriating and impossible, as well as hugely loving, generous and kind.”
“Bill was something else,” Father Worster said. “One of my brother priests said that Bill possessed boy-like exuberance. He was a ‘get ‘er done’ kind of guy; loyal to a fault.”
Father Worster concelebrated with Bishop Peter Christensen, who presided at the Mass.
Several of Deacon Petzak’s fellow deacons also attended. Deacon Jude Gary of Sacred Heart Parish in Boise and Deacon Alan Shaber of Sacred Heart Parish in Emmett served. Deacon John Carpenter, who serves at St. Mary’s, presided at the graveside service.
Deacon Bill Petzak and his wife, Catherine, married in 1962 and became the parents of seven children. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1980. (ICR file photo)
Father Worster said Deacon Petzak and his wife, Catherine, were the “driving force for so many enjoyable deacon family campouts,” at the Petzak cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains near Grandjean.
Deacon Mike Eisenbeiss, who serves at Risen Christ Parish in Boise and was ordained on the same day as Deacon Petzak, remembers those campouts well, particularly the size of the campfire built by the deacon they called “Wild Bill.”
“Most families going on campouts will gather dry branches for a campfire. Not Wild Bill. He would pull out his chainsaw and cut down a whole dead tree. Around his campfire, you could converse with the person next to you, but not anyone across the campfire because they were a half-block away,” Deacon Eisenbeiss said.
Deacon Petzak was born on June 22, 1940 in Manistee, Mich., to Joseph and Marie Petzak. He was the younger of two children, joining his sister Louise.
According to the family obituary, he loved the outdoors his entire life, especially fishing. He moved to Boise with his family in the summer of 1948, developing his skill as a wing-shooter and fisherman along the banks of the Boise River.
He played basketball and ran track at St. Teresa’s Academy in Boise, graduating in 1958 and moving to the University of Idaho where he completed a degree in forestry in 1962. At St. Teresa’s he met Catherine, and the two married in 1962.
Employed by the state Department of Lands, the Petzak family moved to Orofino in 1962, to Coeur d’ Alene in 1966 and Sandpoint in 1968. In 1977, when Deacon Petzak was promoted to Area Supervisor of the Payette Lake District, the family, now expanded to include seven children, moved to McCall.
Driven by his faith, his commitment to service, and his seemingly boundless energy, Deacon Petzak studied for the diaconate in advance of his ordination in 1980. It was while serving at the parish in McCall, that he became famous for his fish frys, serving up fish that he had caught and cooked.
The family obituary stated that later in his life, Deacon Petzak particularly enjoyed opportunities to perform marriages and baptisms, “always ready and eager to share the wisdom he had gathered over the years as a husband and father.”
In 2000, when the Petzaks returned to Boise, Deacon Petzak continued to study, earning a master’s degree in theology from Loyola University.
He is survived by his wife, Catherine; his children Rachel (Mike) Irish of Coeur d’ Alene; Joe (Kim Wilkerson) Petzak of Middleton; son-in-law John Lee; Nick (Jennifer Bryan) Petzak of Oberlin, Ohio; David (Molly Blemler) Petzak of Star; Anne (Clancy) Anderson of Boise; and Sarah (Quin) Osgood of Wallowa, Ore., and several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
A rosary and funeral Mass were held at St. Mary’s Church on Friday, March 31. Services were under the direction of Accent Funeral Home and Cremation. Those wishing to honor Deacon Petzak’s memory may do so by making donations to the Idaho Food Bank.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.