‘She taught us beauty is worth protecting’: Remembering Barbara Metzger

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The rain fell softly outside the Neighborhood Congregational Church on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 20, as dozens of Barbara Metzger’s family and friends gathered to pay tribute to the longtime Laguna Beach advocate and editor, who died on Dec. 10, 2023 at the age of 90. 

The service included words from Laguna Wilderness Press Founder Ron Chilcote, former Laguna Beach Mayor Ann Christoph, Metzger’s daughter Claire Stoneman and granddaughter Twyla Mount. 

Barbara Metzger (head of table) sits with friends and Village Laguna members (l to r) Linda Brown, Bobbie Minkin, Verna Rollinger, Mary Kastner and Bonnie and Arnold Hano. Photo courtesy of the Stoneman family

“Barbara taught us that what is beautiful is worth protecting,” Mount said at her grandmother’s celebration of life.

Metzger’s extensive community involvement included being a member of the Design Review Board from 1987 to 1988, where she reviewed all new residential and commercial construction and major remodels and applications for variances. She was on the Planning Commission from 1993 to 1996 and was instrumental in developing the Downtown Specific Plan and the Hillside Guidelines, among other planning documents. 

A longtime member of Village Laguna, Metzger served on the board as secretary and archivist. 

“Barbara helped make Laguna a better place through many years of participation on the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission. Throughout her years in Laguna, she served on the board of Village Laguna and edited its monthly newsletter around community issues and concerns,” said Chilcote, a longtime resident and friend.  

Metzger was born and raised in Philadelphia, Penn. Her father, Eugene Pearson, worked as an electrical engineer for General Electric. Her mother, Ethel, was an elementary school teacher. Barbara’s family was the first on the block to own a television that her father had built from a kit. The family spent summers in Toledo on Lake Eerie with Barbara’s grandparents. 

Barbara received a full scholarship to attend Earlham College, a Quaker School in Richmond, Indiana. There, she met Duane Metzger, and they married on June 1, 1954. The two newlyweds moved to Chicago, and Barbara entered the University of Chicago’s School of Social Work but would not pursue a career in that field. 

Duane and Barbara had two children, John, born in 1958, and Claire, born in 1960. The family moved to Laguna Beach in 1966 and bought a house overlooking the ocean for $35,000. Duane took a faculty position at the new Irvine campus of the University of California. 

After moving to Laguna Beach, Metzger became the copy editor for the journal “Current Anthropology,” which jumpstarted her long career as a copy editor. She used to edit from her home office and traveled back and forth to the old Kinkos in North Laguna and the post office. She transitioned to computer editing in the 90s but was always said to prefer her red and blue PaperMate pens.

As a busy copy editor, Barbara Metzger could be seen traveling back and forth to the old Kinkos in North Laguna. Photo courtesy of the Stoneman family

Later in her career, she worked for “Latin American Perspectives” and continued to work on articles until a few weeks before her death. She can be credited with teaching at least five generations of anthropologists and graduate students how to write scholarly articles and books.

Along with academic journals, Metzger also edited all of Laguna Wilderness Press’s conservation books, including “Nature’s Laguna Wilderness” (2002), “Wild and Beautiful”(2011), “Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains” (2013), “The Laguna Wilderness” (2014), “The Laguna Canyon Project” (2018), and “Alani and the Giant Kelp Elf” (2019). Together with others, she also wrote and edited a new expanded edition of “Laguna Beach and the Greenbelt: An Historic American Landscape.”

“Barbara was a dear friend, and we shall miss her, but never forget our weekly walks into open space, the frequent phone calls in search of how to stay the course with all to do with editing the unending flow and publishing of manuscripts and a half million words before us each year,” Chilcote said. “She was determined to finish everything and worked at it until the end.”

Metzer was not only an adept editor, she also loved cross-country skiing and took regular trips to Yosemite to ski with her sister-in-law Margaret. Later in her life, she traveled to Yosemite Valley often with her daughter and family. 

Barbara Metzger at Yosemite, her favorite place outside Laguna Beach, shortly before her death. Photo courtesy of the Stoneman family

She loved medieval and Renaissance music and was a proficient recorder player. 

Birding was another favorite pastime, and Metzger loved watching birds outside her window with binoculars and marking her sightings in her trusty Petersen Field Guide for Birds. 

Metzger loved shopping for new native plants for her garden and Tree of Life and Armstrong Nurseries were some of her favorite haunts.

Metzger is survived by her daughter, Claire, and son-in-law, David Stoneman; son, John, and daughter-in-law, Lisa Metzger; grandchildren, Piper, Allegra, and Twyla Mount, Alden Stoneman, and Miranda and Amelia Metzger; and great-grandchildren, Basie and Zadie Barno; and by her sister Lois. 

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