The following are tributes, (kindly donated by Gail Metzlaff) that were paid to Bill Metzlaff at his funeral service Tuesday, August 26, 1997. Due to the nature of these tributes, I have left them (basically) as I received them in order to try to give you a true insight into the person Bill was.
BORN: Saturday, September 5, 1936 – Berlin, Germany
PASSED AWAY: Tuesday, August 19, 1997 – Calgary, Alberta
I first met Bill while we were attending the University of British Columbia. As you know, Bill was never one to take the easy route. At UBC, he was taking a double major, Geophysics and Geology. I met Bill on the Geology side of his course load. My first recollection of Bill involved a lab project he was required to do. It involved taking a simple rudimentary seismograph out on the university grounds and using a sledge hammer as an energy source to find the base of the soft sediments which lie on granite at the university. All that was required was to find the reflector, hand in the report and get 90%. Bill had to do more: he was determined to find reflectors where no one else had. I've always felt sorry for Bill's partner on that project having to swing the hammer "harder and harder! - there's got to be reflectors down there somewhere!"
Bill and I were the only two graduates of the geology class to go directly into the oil industry. Bill joined Amoco where he was very involved in data processing experience he used throughout his career to challenge processors to get the most out of the data.
Bill next went to UnoTex – a very successful 1970' s exploration company, where he contributed to discoveries at Hanlon, Crossfield, Red Earth and Seal. Seal was a project I was involved with as a partner company of UnoTex. It was a unique discovery at the time and Bill discovered it recognizing structure combined with character change. We had a great time during that project developing the Seal pool; jousting at meetings, fighting over land sale bids, and arguing about drilling locations. This is where I was first introduced to Bill's favorite technical expression, "I call a spade a spade." I learned a great deal from Bill about Slave Point Granite Wash prospecting during that period and the area continues to be developed to this day.
After UnoTex, Bill joined Aquitaine for a short time. He left, I think, because he could not change the big multinational company to his liking. His job was advisor – Bill was not an advisor – he was a Doer!
In 1980 Bill ventured out on his own to become a geophysical consultant for the oil business. It was as a consultant where he could take charge that Bill excelled in our industry. He had enormous energy, enormous technical skills, combined with attention to detail and getting the most out of data and the ability to handle many projects at a time. He brought enthusiasm to his work and greatly enjoyed the dialogue of business meetings. "If people knew Bill would be attending a meeting they got a little better prepared!"
He loved geology, and many times Bill and I talked about how fortunate we were to pick oil and gas exploration as our careers. He was an innovator, and was a early user of modeling to the exploration process. Bill's major contribution as a consultant was to the growth of many small exploration companies: Mission, Amax, Zargon, Regent, Ironwood, Western Star, Atlantic, Barwell and Ryerson. At Ryerson, where I worked, Bill was our consulting geophysicist and he contributed to discoveries at Loon, Red Earth, Neptune and Westward Ho.
Bill was professional, loyal and honest with his client companies. When Bill presented his seismic interpretations they were complete and integrated geology, and he could be counted on to stand by his word. As I said, his favorite expression when defending a recommendation was "I call a spade a spade," quickly followed by "I don't sit on the fence."
His confidence and enthusiasm made decision making easier for his many clients because of the trust he built up. When Bill was consulting for me at Ryerson, there were times when I didn't know if he was working for me or I was working for him!
Our oil industry; our exploration business, has lost a most respected, hardworking colleague and friend.
"Isn't Life Good!" That's what Bill said just a week ago last Saturday, while we were having brunch, talking about gardening and plants and plans for the future, while the wives talked about the children.
Bill was happy and relaxed, actually starting his plan to wind down at work and spend more time at home, talking about a trip he had just made and others that he planned. So much to do, and so little time; and now he was going to slow down on the only basis that Bill could ever slow down, a carefully-planned one.
He came to my garden after brunch, identified a plant I couldn't, collected a plant he wanted to try, straightened me out on one or two things, and told me to come and get some plants he thought I should have. Everything was normal, except that he seemed happier and much more relaxed than usual. He had decided to concentrate on his garden and his family. He would no longer have any involvement in organized garden activity, but he would see his friends in his garden and in theirs ... "Isn't life good", he said.
Last Tuesday evening Bill 'phoned' to say that he was expecting a garden visitor, and why didn't I come too, and see his latest treasure, a rare Chinese meconopsis. I told him that I wasn't much on meconopsis, and he explained to me what I was missing. He said that he was feeling tired, and he'd come home early from the office, but he didn't turn a visitor down. He was always helpful, and nothing gave him more pleasure than showing his garden, talking about his plants, and sharing his experience and knowledge.
An hour or so later, Bill had gone.
Let me talk about Bill Metzlaff the gardener: to call him a gardener seems hardly accurate because he was so much more than just a gardener. There are quite a lot of us, but Bill was something special. He was all on his own, far ahead of the rest of us.
First and always, Bill was a keen, perceptive observer, a student of plants and their native habitats. A highly intelligent man, sensitive and thoughtful, he had what often makes all the difference ... an inquiring mind. He wanted to know what made things work the way they did. Observation was the key to understanding, in his mind, and he explored the mountain habitats of the plants that interested him in order to understand them enough to reproduce the necessary growing conditions in his own garden. He wanted to reproduce in cultivation the results he saw in the wild, and to a remarkable extent he succeeded.
The result was a garden unlike any other we are likely to see; tiny mountain landscapes and ranges built meticulously, piece by piece, all fitted together on sound geological principles from rocks he collected for the purpose and for particular plants, with special soils he made, and carefully planned exposures and shelters, filled with one of the largest collections of rare alpine plants in the country.
One example of his powers of observation is the major scientific article on some unusual hybrids of Cypripaedium montanum discovered by Bill and his friend Gunther Preusse in B.C. some years ago. The New York State Museum recognized the scientific interest of the discovery, and a full research study was carried out and published, with Bill receiving full credit for the original discovery.
Bill's knowledge and skill growing rare and difficult plants was fully recognized by plant specialists and professionals all over the rock and alpine plant world. He was in touch with them in England, Germany, Holland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic Republics, and the USA. They exchanged information, bulbs, seeds, and plants. I had some exposure to the respect plant professionals had for him when we toured the best specialist's nurseries of Oregon and Washington together last spring. He was well known everywhere he went, and the difficulty on that trip was getting him away for the next visit. Is there anyone else in Canada with such a garden? ... With such a reputation? If there is, it's a well-kept secret!
Bill Metzlaff was much more than just a first-class alpine plant man, however. He was an educated man in the widest sense, cultivated, informed, thoughtful, curious. His hobbies and interests were many; stamps, jade, oriental carpets, tropical fish, wildlife, botany, hunting, fishing and hiking. But his greatest love was for his family, and the girls of whom he was so proud. Bill was happy in his family, and he thought himself very lucky. ("Isn't life good!")
In spite of all his achievements, Bill was a rather modest man. He was the last person to blow his own trumpet, just as he was the last person who would ever talk about anything he didn't know a good deal about. He had unlimited time and patience for beginners, and he was always willing to share his knowledge, his experience, and his plants.
He was frank and sometimes outspoken, particularly if he had to deal with people who pretended about what they didn't have, or didn't know. He didn't like humbug, but he was never petty or mean-spirited. His way of dealing with people who didn't meet his standards was to try to have nothing to do with them... always the best way.
In a lifetime, we make few real friends, and even fewer late in life and those we value all the more. Many of us have lost a good friend, and a family has lost a husband, a father and grandfather, but he died in his beloved garden without suffering at all. Is there a better way to go? And he isn't really gone, after all. He will live on in the memory of his family and his friends, and so long as he is alive in memory he will never be truly gone. He Simply went on ahead, as he always liked to do.