Robert Mettler, 1935-2013: Navy man led local efforts for veterans

Navy vet and Toledoan Robert Mettler.
Navy vet and Toledoan Robert Mettler.

Robert Mettler, an ardent advocate for veterans, died Monday in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

He was 78 and had fallen recently, his daughter Sue Mettler said.

After serving in the Navy from 1956 to 1970, he turned to advocacy work for Vietnam veterans and was employed as executive director of the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission.

Ms. Mettler said her father was concerned about all issues important to veterans.

“I think he just wanted to make sure they were taken care of,” she said. “A lot of people missed out on their benefits, and he wanted to make sure they got what was due to them.”

He used his position to promote veterans' issues to government agencies and was a strong supporter of veterans, even in times when Vietnam veterans were often ostracized.

“We in the veterans community in the last few years have been concerned that there’s a real lack of interest in veteran issues,” Mr. Mettler told The Blade in 2002. “I think Sept. 11 changed that.”

Even after retiring in 2004, Mr. Mettler continued to meet with government officials and elected leaders to push for rights.

He represented veterans at rallies, protests, parades, and burials where he served in honor guards.

The annual Veterans Day breakfast and ceremony at the University of Toledo, he told The Blade in 2011, held more significance to him than Memorial Day events because the summer holiday tended to get overshadowed by vacations.

He was always enthusiastic about events that drew young veterans.

Mr. Mettler was involved with numerous organizations including the Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, the Area Office on Aging, the Homeless Veterans Task Force, Consortium of Care Task Force, and Sister Cities Toledo.

Born Jan. 3, 1935, to William and Evelyn Mettler, he was a 1952 graduate of Central Catholic High School where he was a baseball pitcher.

He started classes at the University of Toledo in the early 1970s, but did not graduate until 1987 when he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in journalism and history.

His son Jim said that diploma was a milestone for his father.

“He loved history and he loved writing. ... He ended up having way more credits [than he needed] to graduate,” Mr. Mettler said.

“He was very proud that he was finally granted his diploma because he had earned it,” his son said. “It was probably 1972 or 1973 that he had the credits, but with all the kids and all of those pressures to make money, he went all of those years without the degree.”

He was president emeritus of the University of Toledo Alumni Association and on the Walbridge Park Advisory Board.

He also enjoyed boating, his daughter Sue said.

Surviving are his wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1955; sons, Michael, James, Robert, John, and Joseph; daughters, Michelle Mohrbach and Sue Mettler, and 15 grandchildren.

Visitation is 1 to 7 p.m. Friday in Coyle Funeral Home, where a Scripture service will be at 6 p.m. A funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. Saturday in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.

The family suggests tributes to the Disabled American Veterans or to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.

Contact Kelly McLendon at:, 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @KMcBlade.