Beloved Friend Bix Dies at 86

by Mark Votava


On Saturday February 28, 2015 my friend Bill Bischel, or as we called him Bix, died in his home (Jean’s House of Prayer) around 7:30 pm.  Bix was 86 years old and struggled with a heart condition for many years.  He was surrounded by loved ones for 3 days as we sat with him to vigil and reflect on his wonderful life.

  • Caring for others with mental illness

The Tacoma Catholic Worker was Bix’s home as he co-founded it with others back in 1989.  Back in the 70’s he co-founded the G St. Community which eventually became what the Tacoma Catholic Worker is today.  It was founded on caring for others with mental illness, sharing life together and advocating for peace and justice in the world.

  • Influenced by Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi

Bix was a man who was heavily influenced by the social activist Dorothy Day throughout his life.  He loved the works of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.  Protesting against the violence of war and nuclear weapons in particular was his passion.  Being imprisoned many times for his resistance became common to his way of life as he raised awareness of the capacities of these weapons and the amount of money we spend on them.

  • The Plowshares 5

In 2009, Bix was involved in a Plowshares action in which he and 4 others cut through 3 fences of the Naval Base Bangor here in Washington.  Bangor has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the United States as they harbor the Trident Submarines that carry them as first strike weapons.  The Plowshares 5, as we called them, sought to pour blood on the weapons, hit them with hammers and plant sunflower seeds around them (sunflowers are the only thing that survives nuclear radiation).  They cut through the first fence at around 2:00 am and got caught in the morning several hours later about 20 feet from the nuclear stockpile as 3 of them were senior citizens that could not walk very fast.

  • Promoting peace in our world

The military was humiliated and did not want to take them to trial as the publicity would get out, but had to because it was such a huge violation of perceived trespassing, conspiracy and vandalism.  In this case, Bix got 3 months in prison and 6 months of house arrest.  This is just one of the many actions Bix did to promote peace in our world.  I will always remember this as one of the great stories of our time, especially here in the Northwest.

  • Loved the poor, oppressed and marginalized

Bix was a Jesuit priest who had a heart for social justice and the poor.  He played a part in helping to start not only the Tacoma Catholic Worker but a food bank, medical clinic, nativity house (a day shelter), an overnight shelter and a low income apartment building in our neighborhood.  Bix was a beloved person in our neighborhood for several decades from the 70’s onward.  He loved the poor, oppressed and marginalized in everyday life for many years.

  • Compassionate man of humility

I will always remember Bix as a light hearted, compassionate man of humility.  He seemed to love to laugh.  Opening his home to others was something he did a lot of over the years as he followed in the ways of Dorothy Day who practiced a radical hospitality toward those in need with nowhere to live, nothing to eat and nowhere to go.  This was such an example to all of us at the Tacoma Catholic Worker as he practiced a personalism where he wanted to take personal responsibility for the poor rather than allow the government to take care of them.

  • Loved to hear about the stories from his life

Whenever I was around Bix I would wear him out with questions because I loved to hear about the stories from his life.  He would tell me stories of trying to visit Dorothy Day several times, but just missing her in the 60’s and 70’s.  I loved the story of when they got Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, to come to Tacoma.  Or when he would travel around the U.S. as a hitchhiker.  He would tell me about playing baseball or football in high school.

  • I am glad I got the chance to know him for a time in my life

I particularly like the story about when Bix prayed for this building in the neighborhood and it burnt down the next day.  He did not know at the time that the city planned a demolition burning of it beforehand on that day.  The stories that Bix told were wonderful and I am glad I got a chance to know him for a time in my life.

  • Moving on in his memory

I will definitely miss him for sure.  This is the first time that the Tacoma Catholic Worker has existed without him being present in some way.  It will be different for sure, but we will move on in his memory working for peace and justice on behalf of the poor.

  • What you do for the poor you do to Jesus

Bix taught me that what you do for the poor you do to Jesus.  We will all miss Bix so much, but will continue on at the Tacoma Catholic Worker honoring the poor and working for a more peaceful world.  I will miss you Bix my beloved friend.  Goodbye.

How has this story touched you?