Jeanne Metzger, a Herald editor for decades, was a strong and savvy career woman at a time when it wasn’t the norm for a mother of four to work outside the home. She became an ardent advocate of hospice care, and a philanthropist whose generosity will leave a lasting legacy.
And her ferocious love for family and friends never waned.
At 89, she died Wednesday at her north Everett home. She had been diagnosed with bile duct cancer 18 months ago. Her last days were spent in the constant care of her daughters, Jan Brossman, Jo Metzger-Levin, Meg Metzger and Maddy Metzger-Utt.
Throughout her life, she was tied to her community, and especially the lives of her children and grandchildren.
“She just had a thirst for knowledge,” said Metzger-Levin. “Mom read three newspapers a day.”
Born Aug. 17, 1931, in Port Angeles, the daughter of Harry and Muriel Henson, she went to high school in Olympia. Her father, who’d been a high school teacher in Port Angeles, was a member of the Legislature in the 1940s. Jeanne earned a journalism degree at the University of Washington in 1953. By 1954, she’d started her Herald career.
Before her marriage to Everett native Harry Metzger in 1957, she was the paper’s society editor. She would return to the paper in the mid-1960s after the birth of her four girls. Her roles at The Herald included feature writer, visual arts columnist, editor of the Today’s Living section, editor of Panorama magazine, business editor, and the editor of a weekly Communities section.
Long after her 1990 retirement from The Herald, Metzger often contacted former co-workers and newer staff to share her thoughts about the paper.
”She was a great talent and colleague, and a good friend,” said Larry Hanson, who retired as Herald publisher in 2002.
“When Jeanne Metzger is your friend, she has an unforgettable impact on you,” said Joann Byrd, a former Herald executive editor. “Jeanne’s wisdom and her grace and her generosity will be with me every day, the rest of my life.”
Soon after retirement, Metzger became a volunteer with Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County. By 2010, she was a founding member of the Providence Hospice and Home Care Foundation board. In 2019, when she left the board, the foundation gave her the Sister Georgette Bayless Service Award.
In 2013, when Metzger was honored with Bethany of the Northwest’s Raili M. Hanson Inspirational Award, she said her interest in end-of-life care stemmed from personal and professional experiences. Her late husband’s mother had suffered from cancer before hospice care was available. She also mentioned editing a powerful story that followed a family as a loved one was dying.
As director of the Providence Hospice and Home Care Foundation, Mark Johnson saw Metzger’s zeal.
“The palliative program was one of Jeanne’s passions. She was pushing for it as only Jeanne could do,” he said. Palliative care helps those needing assistance in any stage of illness, rather than the end-of-life care of hospice.
Metzger was a leading donor to create the 16-bed Providence Hospice Center in Everett, Johnson said. The center’s kitchen and dining area are named in her honor. Johnson said Metzger decided several months ago to make a tremendous gift, her individual retirement account, to the Providence Hospice and Home Care Foundation.
“It’s a legacy gift that will last a long time,” he said. The fund will be held by the Community Foundation of Snohomish County.
About 20 years ago, Jeanne and Harry Metzger had been one of eight local families who, in all, contributed $2 million to start the Greater Everett Community Foundation. It’s now the Community Foundation of Snohomish County.
Jeanne Metzger’s philanthropy continued, including gifts to the Imagine Children’s Museum now being expanded in downtown Everett, as well as The Daily Herald investigative reporting fund.
“Mom taught us to be good community members,” said Metzger-Utt, who retired in 2019 as CEO of the Community Foundation of Snohomish County.
“Jeanne was an integral part of Everett. She knew the community well,” said Anna Marie Laurence. Her parents, the late Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson and Helen Jackson, became across-the-alley neighbors of the Metzger family in 1967. Long before that, the families had a connection.
Harry Henson, Jeanne’s father, was a member of Scoop Jackson’s campaign committee during his 1940 run for the U.S. House, Laurence said. In 1944, Henson worked as an administrative assistant for Jackson in Washington, D.C., she said.
Laurence and her brother, Peter Jackson, played often with the Metzger girls as kids. The Metzgers’ home on Rucker Avenue was just behind the Grand Avenue home of the Jacksons.
“Our back doors were always unlocked,” Laurence recalled. “The Metzgers’ house was so welcoming. They loved people and were genuinely interested in what everybody was up to.”
Helen Jackson shared an Aug. 17 birthday with Jeanne Metzger. They often celebrated together with lunch or a tea, Laurence said. Mrs. Jackson, who died in 2018, was born two years after her journalist friend.
Peter Jackson, a former Herald editorial page editor, died of pancreatic cancer a year ago. He and Jeanne Metzger had developed a close friendship. After her brother’s death, Laurence continued her visits with Metzger, who reminisced about Herald articles she’d written about Scoop Jackson’s presidential run and a Jackson family Christmas in Everett.
“She will be very missed,” Laurence said.
Along with her husband Harry Metzger, who died in 2007, Jeanne Metzger was preceded in death by her parents and a sister, Pat Shattuck. Harry Metzger had deep roots in Everett. Years ago, his grandfather, Eugene Metzger, ran Metzger Grocery on Hewitt Avenue near the former Judd & Black building.
Jeanne Metzger is survived by her daughters and their husbands, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“She carried herself with a lot of confidence,” said Metzger-Levin, a former Everett High School athletic director who described her mom as a “strong, intelligent woman.”
Jan Brossman and Meg Metzger spoke of their mother’s support for other local women, among them former Everett Police Chief Kathy Atwood. “She was supportive of other women excelling, of their voices being heard,” Meg Metzger said.
Metzger-Levin said her mom’s take-charge manner was apparent even shortly before she died. When someone from hospice visited for an intake interview, “Mom got her notepad out. She ran the meeting,” she said.
And although “she was more of a creative type” who didn’t like math, Meg Metzger said their mom learned spreadsheet skills using Microsoft Excel. “She was always ready to take something on.”
The sisters laughed about calling The Herald as kids to talk with their mother. The receptionist would tell them “Your mom’s on deadline.”
In truth, there was always time — for friends and family.
“She loved and cared for her daughters, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She was just a great mom,” Brossman said.
That care wasn’t just reserved for family. “She was always so in touch with others,” said Hanson, the former Herald publisher.
He remembers that in 1957, when he started at the paper, Metzger gave him advice: “Study hard, get a college degree and continue working at The Herald.” She predicted that one day he’d be a vice president at the paper, which years later came to be.
Johnson said her interest in others was the real thing. “When she asked you how you’re doing, she really wanted to know how you’re doing,” he said.
A memorial service for Jeanne Metzger will be announced at a later date.
Julie Muhlstein: firstname.lastname@example.org