Bob Metz, who came to Bolton Hill only in 2019 after a rich and full life in Pittsburgh, died on Oct. 23, at the age of 71. He was living with his sister, Patricia A. (Trish) Metz, in what she called “the great sibling experiment.” Overall, she said, it was a success, if too short.
Before his retirement and arrival from Pennsylvania, Robert Charles Metz served as a priest for a Greek Catholic church. He also owned a children’s bookstore and served as director of the Wilkinsburg Public Library. He was a graduate of Duquesne and Michigan universities. He loved books and classical music and relished being able to walk to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and to concerts at Peabody Institute.
At a recent remembrance service at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Trish said this about her brother:
In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion wrote: “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”
Bob had many plans for retirement…. The long-term goal was to visit all the Carnegie Libraries in the world and the short-term to read all the Caldecott winner and honor books. (Caldecott annually recognizes the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children.”). There have been 368 Caldecott awards. And if I understand Bob’s recordkeeping, he read all but 23, thanks in large part to the outstanding Enoch Pratt and Baltimore County libraries’ children collections.
Bob didn’t do so well with the Carnegie Libraries. He only visited 58 of the 2,811 libraries that Andrew Carnegie funded around the world. On our first Christmas holiday trip in 2015 to Hawaii, he visited the furthest U.S. Carnegie library, in Honolulu. Last Christmas, our holiday trip was to Scotland where Bob visited not only the very first Carnegie Library in the world, located in Dunfermline, but also the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie.
Bob loved words. He valued good writing and in turn worked hard to put together the perfect combination of words for any given situation. Former parishioners said he gave wonderful sermons. Colleagues said he produced attention-grabbing newsletters, announcements and flyers for his children’s bookstore, for community events he organized for a retail bookstore, and for the library where he worked. The extra notes he added to cards were always witty and a delight. Bob also liked word puzzles – Wordle, Spelling Bee, and crosswords. As his health was declining, he told me his entire life revolved around words, and wasn’t it interesting that he now struggled to communicate.
Bob was thoughtful. He listened and remembered. When he knew someone had a sick relative or upcoming surgery, a new baby in the family, they just returned from or were going on a trip, started a new job, or bought a new car, Bob would ask that person for an update. He did this before our exercise classes at the Y and at Atrium social events.
Bob was quiet in a world of talkers. I think his quiet nature made people talk more. I told him if he didn’t speak up others would keep talking. Unlike teachers, talkers don’t understand the importance of wait-time. But ever the gentleman, Bob would never interrupt the talkers and he listened patiently.
For the past month, people have said to me that they are sorry for my loss. However, Bob was more than just a brother. He was a cousin, parish priest, partner, colleague, collaborator, and co-worker, friend, neighbor, and acquaintance. And so, I say to each of you: I’m sorry for your loss and I thank you for being an important part of Bob’s beautiful life.