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obituary-details

Sharon Kay Metz

09/13/1934 - 06/19/2020

Sharon Kay Metz passed away peacefully on June 19, 2020, in Oshkosh.  Born in Winneconne on September 13, 1934, Sharon was the only child of Henry and Elfrieda Wiesner. 

She grew up a tomboy – fishing, tending traps, exploring the woods and skiing the marshes on the Wiesner farm and fishing resort.  Sharon attended a one-room schoolhouse at which she and her first cousins often accounted for half the student body.  In 1952 she graduated from Winneconne High School. 

That’s also the year Sharon married Thomas Metz, starting a remarkable partnership that would last nearly 68 years.  In addition to Tom, she is survived by sons Michael (Janet Benson) of Sun City West, AZ, Mark (Diana) of Wauwatosa, Mitchell (Rosemary) of Oconomowoc, and Matthew (Aleathea Johnson) of Minneapolis.  She is also survived by adoring grandchildren Casey (Tommasina Miller), Logan, Trevor, Emma, Fletcher, Ellie, Henry, Charlie and Alaina, as well as special friends Hannah Goreta, Oliver and Ava Schlegel and Sarah Binder.

After Tom left the army, the two lived in Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay, raising their four boys.  It was in Green Bay that Sharon began a career in community activism, working as a VISTA volunteer and program assistant for four years.  Her concerns with helping the underprivileged led her to run in 1974 as a Democratic candidate for the Wisconsin State Assembly against a long-term Republican incumbent. She won, and was re-elected five more times.  During her 12 years in the Assembly, Sharon championed the rights of children, the environment, and especially Native Americans.  She became only the second woman to serve on the state’s powerful Joint Finance Committee.

In 1986, Sharon was the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, running with the incumbent governor Tony Earl.  Although that election didn’t end the right way, Sharon brushed herself off and found other ways to continue the fight for social justice.  She and Tom moved to Milwaukee, where Sharon served as Executive Director of Lutheran Human Rights Association of America for the next four years. 

In 1990, Sharon founded Honor Our Neighbors Origins and Rights (HONOR), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting American Indian rights and educating the public on issues of importance to the Native community.  Under her guidance as HONOR’s Executive Director, Sharon was able to organize a national Native-rights advocacy network, bringing in strong non-Indian support to stand with the tribes on many issues, including treaty rights, team mascots, religious freedom, gaming, and the protection of burial and sacred sites.  Tom worked side-by-side with her on HONOR matters, developing his own specialty and recognition as a seller of authentic Native-themed literature.

In 1995, Sharon and Tom moved back to the Winneconne farm of her birth and childhood, where she began to keep and ride horses at the age of 61.  The couple continued to work with HONOR and publish the HONOR Digest for many more years. Sharon only “retired” around 2006, after more than 35 years of social activism.  In 2015, she and Tom moved to an assisted living apartment in Oshkosh, where Sharon enjoyed frequent visits with family and friends. 

The family will hold a private memorial service for Sharon, and in the fall her ashes will be scattered near a Meskwaki archaeological site on the family farm.  A public visitation will be held at Mueller Funeral Home 904 E. Main St. Winneconne on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.  Due to COVID, facemasks and social distancing will apply. 

In lieu of flowers or memorials, the family suggests donations in Sharon’s name to Heifer International.

If you wish please submit online condolences to muellerfh.net.

Pao Lor, UW-Green Bay wrote on July 1, 2020
Dear Mr. Metz: My deepest condolences. It was thirty-five years ago in 1985-1986 when I was a student in your class at Tank Elementary School in Green Bay. You made such a difference in my life as a new Hmong refugee and student and the lives of many of my Hmong friends and classmates. Words cannot express our gratitude. I am so sorry for your loss.

Paul A Vornholt wrote on June 30, 2020
My deepest sympathy to all of the Metz family I got to know so long ago. Sharon gave me my first job in politics which has kept me on a path of public service to this day. She was such a tremendous influence on me in giving me the humility and skills to do better and fight harder. She was a leader ahead of her time who left so many successes that are still victories today. I will never forget the impact she had on my life and those she touched in her decades of service.

Mike Thee wrote on June 30, 2020
Sharon hired me in 1992 as an intern for Honor Our Neighbors Origins and Rights (HONOR), the American Indian rights organization she founded and led. A gracious teacher, she shared everything she knew—from the intricacies of Native American sovereignty and treaty rights, to local and national politics, to the most important of life lessons like the best place to go for a fish fry on a Friday night (which was particularly important for this transplanted New Jerseyan). Sharon’s will to right the wrongs she saw in the world was matched by an abiding faith in the potential of others. She gave me opportunities I probably had no business undertaking, and she was patient with me as learned and grew as a professional and a person. When I think of Sharon, her incredible legacy as a leader and champion of human rights is almost secondary. What I remember most is how she and Tom took me under their wing. There was no limit to their generosity and kindness. Tom, please know that you and your family are in my prayers, that I think of you often and that I am grateful for the place and presence you and Sharon will always have in my life.

Valerie (Blom) VanderMeuse wrote on June 26, 2020
What a life well lived! Prayers of comfort and peace for her family.

Dave Benforado wrote on June 26, 2020
Dear Metz Family, It was almost 40 years ago, but then Representative Sharon Metz left a lasting impression on me about what public service was all about. I was a UW-Madison student at the time with a part-time job as a Wisconsin Assembly page. I was assigned by the Assembly Sargent at Arms to pick up Representative Metz at the Dane County Airport a few times and drive her back to the Capitol. It was on those short 20" return trips back to the Capitol that my lasting impressions were made -- she engaged me in quiet conversation, welcomed questions, and spoke of why she decided to run for State Representative and what she thought her role as an elected leader was. I remember being struck with her very approachable demeanor, her listening skills, her grace and her sincere dedication to being an excellent public servant. May peace by with Representative Metz, her husband Tom and her family. With sympathy, Dave Benforado, President, Village of Shorewood Hills WI

Paul Willems wrote on June 25, 2020
Dear Tom, What a shock. My deepest sympathies to you and the family. I was never more honored that the day she asked me to help with her campaign. Her example of caring and sensitive leadership has guided me all these years since. May the multitude and variety of great and powerful memories soon help you overcome the pain of the present. I am confident the Great Spirit Creator has built a warm and welcoming fire for her. I will never forget you Sharon. My heart is broken.

Steve Hermsen wrote on June 25, 2020
My sympathies to you all. I remember your mother from my days back at St. Agnes and then at Premontre with Mitch. She was a wonderful lady and such an advocate for others. We will keep you all in our prayers.

Barbara Stenger wrote on June 24, 2020
Sharon was a true leader. I worked for her campaigns in Green Bay and hosted an event for her. She was an inspiration to all who knew her. Tom, you and your family have my sympathy and my prayers.

Janet Hill wrote on June 24, 2020
Thank you for being such a beautiful soul! As a young mother who slowly grew out of poverty..you inspired me to do better! The heavens have received a precious angel!

Eloisa Gomez wrote on June 24, 2020
My condolences to Mr. Metz and the Metz family. I did not know Sharon well, but I was inspired by her work over the years as an elected official and as a community activist, especially with HONOR. I also had the opportunity to work with Mitch for a short while. Her quiet leadership and dedication to important causes will be remembered by many.

James & Anne Tobias-Becker, 712 Red Cedar Court, DePere WI wrote on June 24, 2020
It was with great sadness that Anne and I read about the loss of Sharon. I first met Sharon in Racine Wisconsin at an HONOR meeting. Her sense of enthusiasm, honesty, and fairness combined with her gentle approach she was able to break through where others could not succeed. There are very few people who I have known that have had the gifts that Sharon shared with us including her ability to organize, explain, motivate and move people in a caring and thoughtful manner. She was truly a "one of a kind" person and will be sadly missed by many of the people whose lives she touched. Most Sincerely, James & Anne Tobias-Becker

John Brown wrote on June 24, 2020
Le me express my sympathy to Tom and the other members of Sharon's family and my belated thanks for all she did for Green Bay when she served in the Wisconsin State Assembly. For communities she served and her family, this is indeed a loss. It is also a moment to recognize all of her contributions. I served as the "youth" coordinator (I believe) for Sharon's 1974 remarkable run for the State Assembly after learning about canvassing and voter lists when I worked on the 1972 McGovern campaign. Her win in that race showed her talents for being a positive force for change and for connecting with the diverse group of people in the Assembly District. Sharon's work in the Assembly is described nicely here. She also never forgot people, and I am forever indebted to her for putting my name forward as a page in the State Assembly in 1975. That work after graduation led to two years' work as an assistant in the Assembly and Senate and a real education in how state governments can work to serve the people. I don't think I would be where I am today without Sharon's thoughtfulness at that time.

Duane Bunno DeLorme wrote on June 24, 2020
I knew Sharon from her days on the campaign trail in Green Bay. I campaigned for Sharon’s State Assembly runs and her run for Lieutenant Governor with Gov. Tony Earl. She was a dedicated Democrat and a strong advocate for women and the underprivileged. Tom, you and your family have my sympathy.

David and Eileen Littig wrote on June 24, 2020
Dear Tom and family, Our deepest sympathy on the passing of Sharon. We fondly recall working on her campaigns, She was a terrific representative for Green Bay residents in Madison. Sharon's leadership on women's issues, poverty and fighting for justice was instrumental in working with us and organizing the Feminization of Poverty conference in Green Bay and bringing Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson as the key speaker. Her lifelong commitment to protecting and honoring American Indian rights never ceased after leaving public office. Sharon will be remembered as a leader, a true advocate and defender of human rights.

Warren Braun, former state senator wrote on June 24, 2020
Dear Metz family, I had the great good fortune to serve in the Wisconsin legislature with Sharon. I worked wih her on many issues and she was an intelligent, trustworthy and savvy friend. Above all , she lived and acted upon her strong beliefs. I admired her greatly, and will always value her friendship. Warren Braun, a Milwaukee colleague.

Patty Loew wrote on June 24, 2020
There are humans you meet in your lifetime that have a profound effect on you. Sharon Metz was one of those individuals. She was a strong political leader when there were few women legislators in Wisconsin. She was fearless in her defense of Ojibwe treaty rights at a time when it was not politically advantageous to do so. She co-founded HONOR, an organization that supported treaty rights and fought against racism and bigotry. I will forever be grateful to her and Tom. I really, really admired Sharon and I am so, so sad to hear of her passing. To her family, thank you for sharing her with us. She was remarkable and those of us who knew her are better for it.

Sue (Gustafson) Naniot wrote on June 24, 2020
Mark and family, you are in my thoughts and prayers. What an inspiration your mom was way back when, and obviously she continued to live life with passion. Her life reminds me of the “first and only (at least at that point) poem” you wrote in a note to me back in the 70’s. It has continued to challenge me through the years. “I only ask that you remember me In your prayers And if there is a God who can answer mine He will make your life meaningful, your meaning clear.” Praying that God will enfold your family in His peace and holy joy! May God bless you!

Toni and Bill Lawson 1227 Division St. Green Bay, WI 54303 wrote on June 23, 2020
Dear Tom and family, Our deepest sympathy in the passing of Sharon. You two have been on my mind for the last weeks but we had lost track of you. There are so many meaningful things about Sharon that come to mind. She really lived a purposeful life and was an inspiration to me. Working on her campaign was my first interest in politics and I could recommend her whole heartedly because of her genuine, honest and down to earth concern for all people. She truly lived her faith. You were always a loyal supporter and kept the home fires burning as they say. When time permits let us hear from you. Bill will spend the next two months at Grancare Rehab nursing fractured bones. God bless.

Joycelyn Hurley wrote on June 23, 2020
My sincere sympathy to the family of this incredible lady who I admired so much but never had the honor of meeting. Such a wonderful person. So sorry for your loss.