Even as his terminal disease was heading toward its predictable end, an Omaha-born doctor living on the other side of the globe was not dying. Dr. Michael Metz continued to … live.
He bought a new red convertible to replace his old red convertible. He redid his kitchen in his adopted city of Adelaide, on the southern coast of Australia. He rode his beloved bicycles. As the cancer spread from his lungs to his bones and brain, forcing the 63-year-old into early retirement, Metz still took medical calls, which astonished his sister, Stephanie O’Keefe.
O’Keefe visited her brother in the weeks before he died and helped plan one of his two funerals. The first was held in Adelaide in October. The second funeral will be held in Omaha on Friday.
“He just accepted it so beautifully. He didn’t rail against it,” O’Keefe said, of Metz’s then-pending death. “When I said goodbye to him, he said, ‘Well. We’ll see where this goes.’ He wasn’t morose.”
Metz died of complications from lung cancer at St. Andrew’s Hospital in Adelaide on Oct. 2. The clinical biochemist and chemical pathologist left behind three adult children, patients he had befriended and a bevy of colleagues and friends who in emails collected by O’Keefe described Metz as gentle, kind and warm-hearted.
“One of life’s true gentlemen,” wrote Peter Sharp, a senior laboratory scientist at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, where Metz worked.
“Always cheerful,” wrote Yee Khong, professor of perinatal histopathology there.
“Such a lovely man, always with a smile,” wrote Liz Thompson, who works in clinical genetics.
Dr. Bill Hague, a professor of obstetric medicine, was both a colleague and close friend of Metz’s and traveled to Omaha for his funeral. Hague, born in Hong Kong and English by descent, said the pair shared the experience of being ex-pats along with loves of music, good food, good drink and a desire to help.
Hague said Metz had established himself in Adelaide as an adviser to other physicians on biochemical problems that arose in expectant mothers and infants and children. One of Metz’s specialties was high cholesterol, which made Metz a leading consultant around Australia and internationally. Metz also had a particular interest in his patients.
“He cared for people in an extraordinary way,” Hague said. “And he was just a lovely man to work with. Very humble. Not pushy. But my goodness, he knew stuff, and he was just great to talk to and great to gnaw over clinical problems with.”
Hague was with Metz when he died and echoed the observation that Metz did enjoy his life even at the end.
“He loved life. He was full of life. He was grateful to God for his life,” Hague said. “He just lived life to the full.”
Metz’s Omaha funeral marks a homecoming of sorts for a globetrotting man whose curiosity about the world and desire to serve others took him to poor communities in the United States and beyond.
He was the youngest of seven Metz children raised in Omaha and the first of them to die. There is an 18-year gap between Michael and his oldest sibling, Gwen Neff of Colorado. There is a five-year gap between Michael and the sibling next closest to him in age, O’Keefe. His other siblings are: Mary Rae Gibbons, Anthony Metz and Kathy Trenolone, all of Omaha, and Dr. Philip Metz of Colorado.
Despite age gaps that made Michael sometimes complain that he felt like an only child, and the geographic distance later on, he held his family dear and requested an interment in Omaha. His second funeral will be held at the church of his childhood, St. Margaret Mary, 6116 Dodge St.
Following the 10 a.m. Mass Friday, Metz will be buried in a family plot at Calvary Cemetery near his late parents, Roman and Gwanetha.
“One thing I have been struck with is how strong his sense of home and Omaha and roots here are, how important they were to him,” said O’Keefe, who took three trips to Australia in the past year, the third to attend her brother’s first funeral in Adelaide.
Michael Patrick Metz grew up in a home brother Anthony now owns near 55th and Dodge Streets. He attended St. Margaret Mary Catholic School. He attended Creighton Prep, Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and finished high school and college early. He graduated from medical school at the University of Nebraska in 1978 and specialized first in pediatrics.
His sisters Gwen and Stephanie remembered Metz as being smart, funny and a touch rebellious. He loved to read and even considered being a literature or history professor but, urged by his parents, studied medicine. His medical training took him to New Orleans, Louisiana’s Cajun country and Cincinnati, where he met his former wife, Jackie, who was from Australia.
Metz served on mission-style trips to Alaska, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and St. Lucia. The couple wound up back in Australia and raised their daughters Libby and Evangeline and son Jamie there. He always said his greatest accomplishments were his children.
Daughter Libby said her father was her biggest advocate and supporter and she watched how his love “allowed people around him to blossom and become the best version of themselves.”
O’Keefe said it was hard having her brother that far away from the rest of the clan. She said her brother was a devoted son and sibling who got back home as much as he could, especially as their mother aged. Gwanetha Metz died in 2014 at age 101.
Her brother got much less time to live. But O’Keefe said she is consoled to think of how Michael Metz spent the time he had.
He was fun to be around. He had a smile that was “quick, ready.” He drew simple pleasure from what was around him: work, friends, the beach. He even, she said, flew kites.
Notable Omaha-area deaths of 2018
A look back at some of those from the Omaha area who died in 2018.
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Foy was a casting director for hundreds of television shows that became ingrained in the social consciousness in America, among them “The Donna Reed Show,” which starred the Denison native by the same name.
Alan "Butch" Eells loved fast cars, great golf courses and good times.
Trevor Canaday was “caring, kind and gentle, yet tough when he needed to be,” his mom said.
An act of kindness by one man allowed Helen Fish Manheimer to live and eventually teach countless Omaha children Hebrew at Beth El and Beth Israel Synagogues.
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Tyler Butterfield, 20, a junior majoring in accounting at UNL, died Friday in a two-vehicle crash in Lincoln.
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Joe Hallett won't be able to take his hot rods with him, but his family made sure their father's love of cars was a big part of his funeral.
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Walter Barsell helped haul ammunition, and he spent several days helping to remove the bodies of the dead. He remained in Pearl Harbor for two more years, an electrician’s mate first class, installing sonobuoys and magnetic cable.
Daughter channels her father’s sense of humor and writes his obituary the way he would have.
Bellevue firefighter Steve Blum was a helper. And toward the end of his life, his Fire Department family rallied around him. Blum died Monday after battling a rare cancer for two years. He was 46.
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John Patrick Nicholson, of Bellevue, died Sunday in his home, surrounded by family and friends, after a long battle with brain cancer.
John Harding, who died in Seattle at age 97, helped Buffett's investment partners in the transition to Berkshire.
Sage, who died Thursday, believed in helping patients no matter their financial means.
Family, colleagues and former students remembered longtime Millard teacher Terry Eicher as a gifted educator who influenced hundreds of young people during his nearly 40-year career.
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At the U.S. Naval Academy, John McCain and his Omaha buddy Chuck Larson were academic opposites — but they became lifelong friends and now will lie side by side.
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Joe Piccolo, who dedicated his life to bettering the lives of others, died July 29 at the age of 83.
The 71-year-old University of Missouri graduate died Friday of lung cancer.
Mitchell, 53, died Friday. The cause of death has not been determined, a sister said Monday.
Local high school athletes lost more than a trainer Monday, they lost a friend.
A former two-star general in the South Korean Army, Sun-Ha Lim once advised Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
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Kronberg, 85, the wife of former Ralston mayor Wendell Kronberg, died June 15.
Scott O’Hanlon held down the critical 7 p.m.-to-midnight shift on KQKQ — Sweet 98 radio.
Chris Wiley, a North High guidance counselor and one of a few African-American male counselors in the area, died Monday, a day after celebrating his 65th birthday.
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Omahans Jennifer and Adam Penick, known for their involvement in the lives of their five children, died Monday in a head-on collision.
Gladys Styles Johnston, a former chancellor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney died Wednesday. She was 79.
Chris Jessen, the 36-year-old Omahan who drove his daughters to day care each morning blasting Pharrell Williams’ hit song, “Happy,” died Tuesday after a four-year battle with liver disease and cancer.
When Ruth Schiller died May 5 at age 82, Robert Schiller couldn’t go on.
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Frank Shudak saw his duties in work, family and church through to the end.
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Tony Warner knew just how to honor his son. He posted a a 13-second video of Robbie dancing during a recent Omaha Beef football game. Since it was posted on April 30, the tweet has been shared more than 101,000 times.
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Jerry Jacoby recently was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died April 4 at the Josie Harper Hospice House. He was 80.
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Jacqueline "Jackie" Pospisil enjoyed decorating her home for all the holidays but preparing for Halloween was a real treat for the former kindergarten teacher, a son said Tuesday.
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Joe Srb never hesitated when he noticed something was needed in his neighborhood, such as caring for the flowers and trees on the median near his southwest Omaha home.
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The wildly popular community reunion known as Native Omahans Day would not have happened were it not for the bologna sandwiches served at a reunion of Omahans in California in the early 1970s.
Wright, 72, served 24 years on the state's highest court.
A 17-year-old girl who died Monday from injuries she suffered in a two-vehicle crash on Sunday will be greatly missed, officials at her high school said.
Vojmir “Bud” Benak Sr. died Friday at his home. He was 75.
Mike Streich, 40, died Monday after being shot about 3:20 a.m. in his home at 5932 N. 33rd Ave. Another man, Adam Nathan, 36, who was at the house, was severely wounded, police said.
Former Ralston City Council member Fred P. “Bud” Abboud died March 3, a week before his 91st birthday.
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Charles Thone — governor, congressman, Republican Party stalwart and "one of Nebraska's most productive citizens" — died Wednesday.
Joe McCartney taught journalism for 15 years at UNO, joined Union Pacific Railroad as head of public relations and later formed McCartney Group, followed by retirement in 1999.
A retired Air Force major has died after being struck by an SUV on Thursday while walking near 90th Street and West Dodge Road.
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The founder of PULSE, a nonprofit that assisted families like hers that had lost loved ones to homicide, has died at 73.
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Bill Danenhauer can’t remember exactly which UNO football player the NFL scouts were coming to see, but their eyes always led them back to No. 42. Danny Fulton. A receiver routinely known as “The Steam Machine.”
Former Douglas County Judge Robert Vondrasek pioneered reforms in sentencing, developed a reputation for being a tough judge, and performed marriages across the state.
Don Leahy led Omaha Creighton Prep to eight state football championships before his stints as athletic director at both UNO and Creighton.
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Smith served as interim chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the early 1980s, when he defended workplace sexual harassment protections against forceful political attack. He later became the dean of Howard University’s law school and authored a seminal book on the history of black lawyers in America.
Paul Keyes, who worked as a U.S. marshal in Nebraska since 2014, has died after a long battle with cancer.
Engelkamp served on the Bellevue City Council from 1982 to 1990 and thereafter became one of the city’s most active volunteers.
Prince, a member of the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame, died Wednesday at 92, his son said, from "complications of old age." He will be remembered at a 10 a.m. Wednesday service at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Alan Stoler approached the biggest battle of his life — pancreatic cancer — with the same doggedness he demonstrated throughout his career.
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Former students of Notre Dame Sister Barbara Ficenec have described her as an “angel” or “saint.” Ficenec died Jan. 23 after being diagnosed with cancer last spring. She was 89.
The Rev. Ralph Lammers was assigned to a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha during a 35-year career.
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Remmert died on Jan. 14 in Los Angeles of complications from cystic fibrosis, a disease he’d been battling for almost two decades.
Viers died Jan. 8 at the age of 57 after battling cancer. Funeral services were Saturday.
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LeFlore, 27, was fatally shot outside the Reign Lounge in the Florence neighborhood about 1:45 a.m. Saturday.
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Weber served as UNO’s chancellor from 1977 to 1997, a period of maturation and growth for the campus.
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