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Mourners remember Ron Metzger as 'the ultimate giver'

Mourners filled the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church on Saturday to celebrate the life of Ronald C. “Ron” Metzger, a high school dropout who became a social worker and mental health administrator, a fulltime repairer of hurting humans, a "world-class" maker of cocktails and cookies and the “ultimate giver.”
Metzger died on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at Carolina Village from complications from Alzheimer’s at age 79.
Born in Sabetha, Kansas, he was one 10 children of Bertha and Philip Metzger. After dropping out of high school, he got a job as an apprentice baker, arriving at 1 a.m. to knead the dough, fire up the oven and bake bread, then setting out to deliver the bread, the Rev. Mark Ralls said.
Metzer volunteered for the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector, assuming he’d be ordered to permanent K.P.

“After all, he had lots of practice,” Ralls said.
Instead, the Army made him a medic and assigned him to a psychiatric ward, “caring for soldiers struggling with mental illness.”
One day, walking the down a street, he spotted a sign about getting a G.E.D. “And he would say years later it was that moment that changed his life,” Ralls said “He vowed to become a social worker.”
After his discharge from the Army, he enrolled at Kansas State, where he met and fell in love with Sherri. When he left for graduate school at the University of Kansas, Ron and Sherri were “apart but never separate. Ron and Sherri wrote each other almost every day." Although they could only afford one long distance call a week that was enough. "All those letters and that phone call were enough to keep the fires burning,” Ralls said. Sherri saved Ron’s letters, sealing the more amorous of them in a plastic bag labeled “Open at your own risk.”
Early in their courtship, Ron gave Sherri three roses.
“One for him, one for her and one for their spirit together,” the minister said. “He continued the tradition throughout their long and happy marriage. Three roses for every anniversary.” Then came their daughter and the three roses represented mom, dad and Emily.

When Ron and Sherri moved to Hendersonville in 1974, he started his career as a mental health counselor and later administrator. Over time the small mental health clinic “had grown to 250 employees in a building that bears his name,” Ralls said. “And all through those years of service Ron demonstrated again and again that the greatest gift any of us can give is to give ourselves.”
In the early days, with space in short supply, “Ron the director of the program set up his office in the hallway,” a hanging cloth the only means of privacy. Although subordinates protested, “Ron insisted it was more important for our clients to have privacy and dignity.”
Besides his degrees from Kansas State and Kansas, Metzger completed post-graduate work at UNC at Chapel Hill and at the National Institute of Mental Health. After he retired from Trend in 1997, he joined Sherri in real estate sales at Beverly Hanks & Associates. He was a member of the Rotary Club for 40 years and served on the board of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce among other local boards.
His daughter, Emily Freeman, remembered when her dad let her stand on his feet when they danced, when he opened the blinds every morning to wake her up, when he made breakfast every day for her and Sherri “and made sure we would all get our day started right as a family,” how he would “always make Mom and me feel like we were the center of his world.”
Besides Sherri and Emily, he is survived by his son-in-law, Mark Freeman, and granddaughter, Kinley.
Near the end of his career at Trend, Metzger was asked to sum up his philosophy.
“It is to have and to give and to share with others,” he told the gathering.
“This is not only how he lived,” the Rev. Ralls said, “this is also how he died.” Near the end of his days, as Sherri was leaving his room, Ron “absolutely insisted she take a small figurine on the table as a gift from him,” a giraffe. “Giraffes, you may know, are a symbol of peace. Perhaps Ron knew that in the weeks and months to come Sherri and all the family would need this gift,” Ralls said. “He said ‘I want you to have it, because when I go to sleep tonight I’m not getting out of this bed.’”
He was right. That night he fell and never recovered from the fall. He never got out of that bed.
“And yet who among us would be surprised to learn,” Ralls said, “that Ron Metzger’s final act was the giving of a gift.”

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The family thanked the staff of Carolina Village and particularly thanked Dr. Peggy Noel of Memory Care, who “will forever remain in our hearts for her tireless compassion.” The family asked that memorial donations be directed to through the Community Foundation of Henderson County.