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home : classifieds : sheriff's calls October 15, 2018

8/18/2009 1:05:00 PM
Camp Sherman learns of a life well lived
The last cabin that Luther Metke built at age 94. The original shake roof has been replaced. photo by Oenta Gentry
The last cabin that Luther Metke built at age 94. The original shake roof has been replaced. photo by Oenta Gentry

About a hundred people came together in Camp Sherman's Community Hall on September 15 to honor the life of Luther Metke, builder of bridges, constructor of log cabins, and poet.

"Our body is the temporary temple of the soul," he once wrote in a poem. A true testament to his own words, Metke lived 100 years.

Paden Pritchard, whose idea it was to hold the memorial, said, "Norma and I feel we know him, because we live in a house he built when he was 80."

At 94, while he was still building cabins, filmmakers documented his life. The end result was 27 minutes of tape, honored in 1981 with an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject.

The film, which shows Metke hard at work on what was to be the last cabin he built, reciting poetry, and sharing his philosophy of living, has been shown in countries the world over.

Ax in hand, he was a man who believed in hard work.

"He would just ignore you, if you tried to help him when he didn't need it," said filmmaker Steve Raymen.

Raymen met Metke after picking up a hitchhiker who talked about working with a 92-year-old log cabin builder. Raymen talked with Metke a couple hours, and decided to do the film.

"We didn't have funds to make the film and couldn't get grant support," he said. "I contacted Jorge Preloran to come up and he met Luther. Within four days, he got a grant."

Preloran, who died this year at the age of 75, produced the film. He was a pioneer of ethnobiography, which explores an individual's life.

Metke moved to Central Oregon in 1907 and built nearly every bridge between Bend and Crescent.

"He bought 160 acres for $200," said broker Kitty Warner. "That land is now Sunriver Resort."

Warner recalled when he bought the Camp Sherman store in 1942.

"Mae and Louise (his daughters) ran the store," she said. "We didn't see much of him in the early days. He was always working. It was a time of gas rationing. When they went to town to buy goods people would ask them to pick up supplies for them. Luther was humorous about it. He laughed and said he didn't think he was in the delivery business.

"He purchased the Metke Lane property from my parents. He only owned the store for three years, but he was a community man. He built the Community Hall, a cabin for Mae and one for Louise and the cabin with the blue roof for himself."

Metke was a man of strong opinions.

"He didn't like the way the government was going and he would write letters to the editor and ask me to type them and send them to The Bulletin." Warner said. "A lot of them were published."

Don McCreight, local contractor, recalled Metke as a next door neighbor: "He was an old man when I met him, hard working. His eyesight was bad. He got lost in the woods and spent the night in a hollowed-out log. I remember him reciting poetry in a snow storm, rocking on his heels."

Granddaughter Mary Ellen Metke came up from Colorado and recounted his love of food.

"I was learning to make bread and made him some bagels," she said. Metke told her, "I've got to tell you something about those doughnuts. Those are the driest doughnuts I ever ate. Use more sugar next time."

"I loved his stories," she went on. "His father fought in the Civil War. Near the end I asked him what was the most important thing he learned in life."

"Love begets love. Hate begets hate," he replied.

"His main thing was to sow love," she said, "and that's what I want to share with you."

The event was sponsored by the Historical Society. Donations will support a Toni Foster Memorial Film and a Camp Sherman oral history documentary.

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, September 30, 2017
Article comment by: Todd Solley

I just watched "Luther Metke at 94", and what a pleasure to receive such valuable guidance from a voice out of the past. This little film should be required viewing in every school and in every nursing home. Your article adds, for me, a touching closure to the life of a man I learned to love in 27 minutes.

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