My life as a public official began when my father passed away, and I was appointed to complete his term. Roger Metzger was on the Village Board at that time and immediately became a mentor who showed me the ins and outs of being a community representative. He shared a wealth of knowledge and I was so grateful for his guidance. This was also the beginning of a long friendship and camaraderie.
After finishing my appointed term, I ran for office; Roger and I ran as a team. When I was elected Mayor in 2001, I appointed Roger as my Deputy Mayor. Even with decades between us in age, what I appreciated about Roger was his youthful spirit and openness to new ideas. He was simultaneously wise and a voice of reason – a wonderful mix of knowledge, humor, gruffness, and deep care for his community. He was unique in his tenacity, sense of irony, and for those attributes, truly “Roger” to all who knew him well.
Roger left us with a legacy not only as an elected official, but also as a Scout Leader, Planning Board Chairman and especially as the Village’s Shade Tree Commissioner, which he oversaw for over forty years. He was responsible for the planting and maintenance of hundreds and hundreds of trees during his lifetime. I marvel at those 2” caliper trees that have grown to mature specimens. The row of oaks along Galloway Road along the field at Park Avenue School is one example, the willows at Stanley Deming another. As a Scout Leader, Roger personally planted the cherry trees at the corner of the Hallowed Ground, which herald every Spring and tell the folks who approach the Village that they are entering a very special place. These plantings will always remain my connection to Roger.
`Roger’s friendship is one I cherished. I remember candidly his nudges under the conference table at a Board meeting indicating to the still ‘green’ Mayor to move the meeting along. He is still fondly remembered by current Board members for his unapologetic desire not to mince words as a “What would Roger Metzger Do?” moment.
`He left us with so much. He was an active participant who clearly had a deep love for Warwick. I think Arbor Day will be the day I remember Roger the most – as school children march over the crest of the hill towards Stanley-Deming Park to hear the benefits of planting trees from this very wise man. He beamed his love and intent. Every child went away with a better understanding of trees and their importance and especially a memory of planting a tree. That tree became their personal growth chart – a sweet and powerful gift from Roger.
`So, my friend, my mentor, my valued confidant and advisor, I say thank you. Your assuredness and uniquely “Roger” qualities have shaped this extraordinary Village and have touched our hearts. Your presence will be missed but we know you remain with us in the very wood, the fragrant blooms, the rustle of leaves and the cool shelter of our magnificent trees.
`Goodbye, dear friend.
The above column, written by Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, has been published in the Oct. 17 issue of the Warwick Valley Dispatch.