Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tom Metzger: last of a generation of Oregonians

Maty, Uncle Tom, and Mom (Bobbie)
Sunday, just before 3pm my great-uncle, Tom Metzger, passed after suffering a series of strokes earlier in the week.  He was 87 years old.  Tom is survived by his wife, Lois, his children, Gordon and Nancy, and his grandsons, Edward and Brian.

Tom lived all his life in Gresham, Oregon, leaving only for a stint in the United States Navy during World War II.  Like many native Oregonians, Tom was humble and pragmatic.  His Metzger heritage made him affable, self-effacing, and quick with a joke.  Metzgers are both modest and proud, and Tom was a Metzger.

Frank and Josie Metzger (seated on the right), circa 1900, presumably in or near Gresham, Oregon
Tom was the last surviving child of  my great-grandfather, Henry Franklin "Frank" Metzger.  Frank was born in Gresham in 1883, the first native-born Oregonian in my family.  Frank's people were farm folk, most recently from Kansas, but before that Michigan and Ohio.  (The first Metzgers to come to America did so in 1746; German folk from Wurtemburg.)  They came to Oregon from Kansas in the 1870s and helped to establish Gresham by clearing land, planting crops, opening businesses.  Pioneer Cemetery in Gresham is sited on a Metzger family endowment. 

In 1901, Frank Metzger married Josie Hoagland.  Josie's folk were farmers from Nebraska and Josie was a young child when they came to Oregon.  They married young.  Frank was 18 and Josie 19.  Their marriage was a long one: fifty-five years that produced 11 children, starting with Thelma in 1902 and ending with Tom in 1925.

The full roster:
  1. Thelma Irene Metzger b. April 18, 1902, Gresham, Oregon, d. November 12, 1978, Seattle, Washington 
  2. Elsie MAUDE Metzger b. July 20, 1903, Gresham, Oregon, d. June 29, 1999, Portland, Oregon 
  3. Mildred Millicent Metzger b. January 12, 1906, Gresham, Oregon, d. October 15, 1966, Everett, Washington 
  4. Henry Franklin Metzger Junior b. May 28, 1909 near Damascas, Oregon, d. November 22, 1923, Gresham, Oregon 
  5. Richard Dorson "Dick" Metzger* b. February 9, 1913, near Dasmascas, Oregon, d. June 11, 1973, Portland, Oregon 
  6. Eldon Clinton "Ed" Metzger b. July 12, 1914, Gresham, Oregon, d. August 10, 1984, Framingham, Massachusetts 
  7. William Robert "Bob" Metzger** b. May 22, 1916, Gresham, Oregon, d. December 31, 1999, Salem, Oregon 
  8. James Hoagland "Jim" Metzger b. January 14, 1918, Gresham, Oregon, d. March 19, 1984, Gresham, Oregon 
  9. Franklin WAYNE Metzger b. April 25, 1919, Gresham, Oregon, d. September 7, 1941, Maplewood, Oregon 
  10. Herbert Max "Herb" Metzger b. August 22, 1922, Gresham, Oregon, d. January 6, 2002, Boring, Oregon 
  11. Thomas Allen "Tom" Metzger b. August 11, 1925, Gresham, Oregon, d. September 30, 2012, Gresham, Oregon
Take a gander through the dates. Dates and numbers can make for dry tinder, but if you look closely, you can discern the joy and tragedy of life.  Henry, the first son, died at 14 years of age, from tuberculosis.  (There is a sad family story about the day he determined that he would not go to the hospital.  I might write it up one day.)  Maude, the second daughter, lived to be 96 years old.  Over the course of her life she saw Gresham change from a country hamlet to a thriving blue-collar city.  Ed Metzger was a veteran of World War II who saw action in the Pacific Theater. 

Metzger progeny still dwell in Oregon.  There are lots of us.  But now we're professionals and office workers rather than farmers. 

Tom's passing is the last wink of a candle flame.  The second generation of Oregon-born Metzgers has come to an end. Tom's burden was to see all his family pass before him.  I imagine it was his solace, too.

So long, Tom.  Give my regards to all your brothers and sisters.
Metzger family reunion in August 2008; Tom is standing on the right
*Dick Metzger was the husband of my great-aunt, Evalina, who passed in 2010.
**Bob Metzger was my grandfather.

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