Howard C. Metzler

Claremont resident Howard Charles Metzler died at his home on May 11, 2012 following a year of declining health. Age 88, he died with his wife of 52 years, Ruth Hermison Metzler, at his side.

Born in Brooklyn, New York on April 28, 1924, Mr. Metzler was the only child of Julia Jacoby Metzler and Carl Metzler ,who immigrated to the US from Germany at age 20.

Mr. Metzler distinguished himself academically at a young age, having skipped 2 grades by the time he graduated from Southside High School in Rockville Centre, New York at age 16.  

From there, he went on to Millard Preparatory School in Washington, DC for a year before entering the US Military Academy at West Point on a Congressional appointment. At West Point, he began a long and distinguished military career, eventually earning 3 Legion of Merit commendations and one Bronze Star medal.

By the time Mr. Metzler entered West Point, World War II had begun.  As a consequence, Mr. Metzler was in the first 3-year class at West Point, graduating on June 6, 1944; D-Day was announced during his graduation ceremony. During his lifetime, Mr. Metzler often noted that much of what he knew of honesty, integrity and character was gained during his time at the institution. He had a great fondness for his alma mater and maintained many close friendships from his West Point years throughout his life.

Mr. Metzler’s entrance into the US Army Corps of Engineers was a natural result of his lifelong zeal for and skill in mathematics and science. Immediately following West Point, he attended the Engineer School in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia for post-graduate training before he was deployed first to France and then to Germany, where he served at the end of WWII with the Eighth Infantry Division. His family was, in subsequent years, both awestruck and somewhat amused at the image of a 20-year-old lieutenant commanding seasoned troops in Germany.

Upon his return to the US, the Army sent Mr. Metzler to Iowa State College for a master’s degree in civil engineering. His Army career as an engineer took him all over the world, with posts in Okinawa, New Mexico, Texas and California, where he was responsible for the construction of the Officers’ Club at March Air Force Base.   

As a civil engineer, Mr. Metzler built his fair share of bridges and airstrips and frequently reminisced about the challenges, sometimes quite humorous, of these assignments. Midway through his military career, he switched from the Corps of Engineers to Ordnance. It was as an Ordnance officer that he later served in the Korean War.

In 1959, Mr. Metzler married his second wife, Ruth Hermison, when both were working at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Their travels continued, as then-Colonel and Mrs. Metzler resided in New Jersey, where Mr. Metzler wrote the first Safety and Reliability Program for Atomic Weapons; New York, where he was commanding officer of Seneca Depot;  Maryland, where he headed the Research Laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; Virginia, where he was stationed at the Pentagon; and Frankfurt, Germany. 

Among Mr. Metzler’s notable pursuits during this time were attendance at the National War College in Washington, DC, the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.

One particularly interesting assignment was Mr. Metzler’s tenure as a member of a team composed of State Department, US military and other governmental representatives sent to Africa to study the continent—his National War College thesis had been on the Sudan.  He often recounted his impression of African countries with cultures and socio-economic structures vastly different from those of the United States. He also recalled with a bit of a shudder eating foods of dubious derivation in the homes of various African heads of state: he was positive that he had eaten at least a few insects during those meals, but never wanted to actually have that confirmed.

The war in Vietnam was the third and final war in which Mr. Metzler served, working as deputy commander of the First Logistics Command in charge of all non-divisional support assets and commanding approximately 25,000 troops. 

Following his return to the States, Mr. Metzler requested a West Coast assignment, hoping to stay in one place long enough for his youngest child to remain in the same high school for 4 years. The resulting assignment was as head of the ROTC program for The Claremont Colleges.  

Settling into Padua Hills, Mr. Metzler, his wife and youngest daughter remained in Claremont following his retirement as a full colonel from the Army after 30 years of service.

Although the aerospace industry might have been a natural second career for an Army engineer, following his retirement from the Army Mr. Metzler deviated from his previous path and accepted a position at Pomona College, eventually serving as the associate vice president for development in the Annuity and Trust Department. He spent 18 fulfilling and successful years in that department. He had an enormous amount of affection and respect for his colleagues at Pomona, and is an honorary member of the school’s class of 1944.

During his tenure at Pomona, Mr. Metzler coauthored a book with Norman S. Fink of Columbia University titled The Costs and Benefits of Deferred Giving.

Mr. Metzler served as president of the local chapter of the Rotary Club and, in that capacity, traveled with his wife to Brazil for a Rotary International meeting. Following his retirement from Pomona, he enjoyed traveling around the world to both West Point and family reunions in various locales.

Mr. Metzler was an avid cook, and friends and family have many years of fond memories of delicious meals, comforting baked goods and plenty of culinary adventures. He was also very active and swam almost daily for decades, walked the family dogs around the loop in Padua Hills and could be seen shooting hoops well into his 70s. When he first came to Claremont, he played a weekly basketball game with ROTC students and talked of trying to keep up with the “young guns!”

His family and friends will remember him well for his thoughtfulness, kindness and compassion, incomparable work ethic and unflagging integrity.

Mr. Metzler is survived by his wife of 52 years, Ruth Hermison Metzler; his 3 children from a previous marriage and their spouses, Bradford and Judi Metzler, Beverly and Stephen Tifft and Craig and Linda Metzler; his daughter and son-in-law, Lisa Metzler and Richard Winslow; and 11 grandchildren.

A family graveside service was held for Mr. Metzler on June 4, 2012 at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, where he was interred with military honors in a most moving ceremony.

Memorial donations may be made to Pomona College, Annual Giving, 333 N. College Way, Claremont, CA 91711; or the West Point Class of ’44 Fund, West Point Association of Graduates, 698 Mills Rd., West Point, NY 10996.




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