Urban activist Janice Metzger dies of lung cancer on February 22, 2010 at age 60

Date: 
02/23/2010
JanMetzger
Janice Metzger lived in Wicker Park for over thirty years amongst the historical grandeur of mansions and humble worker cottages. Metzger had a passion for Wicker Park. She wanted to preserve a little funkiness, make it greener, create a tight knit community and make sure the art community survived.  As a vocal urban activist she had a hand in improving the city's mass transit. Metzger has worked on city-building efforts of the last three decades, including Mayor Washington's school reform summit, affordable housing, environmental issues and transportation reform.

Locally Metzger served on the Association House of Chicago's board of directors and was, along with Marshia Jackson and others responsible for getting Sabin School reopened as an elementary magnet school.

In 1987, Metzger was Co-Chair of the fifty-member Parent / Community Council created by Mayor Washington to bring parent and community voices to the Education Summit after a nineteen day teacher's strike.  She was a former editorial board member of Catalyst Chicago, an independent newsmagazine created in 1990 to document, analyze and support school-improvement efforts in the Chicago Public Schools.

In 1995, she became a Senior Project Manager at the Center for Neighborhood Technology and author of several CNT reports on planning, including "Planning Matters" and "Changing Direction: Transportation Choices for 2030." Metzger was the first Commission Chair on the WPB (Special Service Area #33).  Chicago's SSA program has provided communities with the financial means to create, maintain and manage clean, attractive and competitive commercial districts) appointed by Mayor Richard Daley.

On Feb. 13 Jan joyfully celebrated with friends and family at St. Paul's Cultural Center in Wicker Park. She said, "My sixtieth birthday was a few weeks ago but my main celebration is that two years ago I was told that I had a 25% chance of living two more years."

Elaine Coorens, Our Urban Times' editor/publisher,  reflects on Jan's last days at Rush Presbyterian Hospital and states, "Her partner, family and friends, including her ex-husband and his wife, were jammed in her small room.  Someone was with her day and night.  Everyone was telling stories about the past that she could apparently hear but not respond to.  The dedication of all these folks to maintaining this environment for her was awesome.  She finished writing a book about Jane Addams and Burnham and the Chicago Plan (What would Jane Say?: What if the voices of Jane Addams and over 100 other city-building women had been included in the Burnham Plan for Chicago?); she continued going to meetings and book related promotional events; and she made the two-year challenge. It was admirable that she dealt with all of this in a matter of fact, determined manner, continuing to live her life each day without complaining."

Metzger will be remembered "as a woman of unmatched integrity; a woman who defined the saying "practice what you preach".  I will always admire Jan's insistence on inclusion and transparency, even when it isn't the easiest or most popular option," said Jamie Simone, Program Manager of the WPB.

Illinois Commerce Commission Chair and former 1st Ward Alderman Manny Flores commented, "I was sad to hear about Jan's passing.  It is a big loss to our community. She was a wonderful human being as well as a respected activist who cared about others and dedicated her work to make a positive difference."

"Jan Metzger is my hero; she threw a great party for family and friends just a week ago.  What a lady!  Not feeling well but not wanting to miss the fun," comments fellow WPB Commissioner Laura Weathered, Exec. Dir of the Near North West Arts Council.

Born in Chicago Metzger grew up and went to college in Michigan.  She leaves behind her partner John Paige, director of Planning Services at the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission and Near North West Arts Council board member, her children Timothy, Christopher and Andrew Metzger, and her brother Richard Bratcher. A memorial service is being planned for March 6th, 2010.

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