JAMES MERTZ / 1928-2007
Pediatrician was a beloved doctor for all Kailua
When James L. Mertz walked in Kailua's Fourth of July parades, all the kids would yell, "There's Dr. Mertz," said Dudley Foster.
"Practically every kid in Kailua was taken care of by Dr. Mertz. They all loved him," said Foster, who served with the pediatrician in the Windward Rotary Club.
He said Mertz was an "old-time physician" who was always available for his patients. "He would call and say, 'How is little Johnny doing?' He was truly a caring physician. You'd see him and he'd be just wiped out. He'd be up all night with somebody."
Mertz retired in 2002 and moved to Lincoln, Calif., near Sacramento. He died last Saturday at home, surrounded by family members, after developing pulmonary fibrosis. He was 78.
"He didn't really want to leave Hawaii, but eight out of his nine kids went to the mainland and all of his grandkids are on the mainland," said Andy Mertz of Honolulu, owner of Andy's Pool Service Corp.
Once when he asked his father how he was doing after moving to the mainland, he said his father told him, "It's so surreal now. Nobody's coming up to me saying, 'Hi, Dr. Mertz.'"
A pediatrician for more than 40 years in Kailua, he cared for more than three generations of children, said Nicole Kuratsu, medical assistant to Dr. Brit Reis, who purchased Mertz's practice.
"I really enjoyed him. He was a very dear man," said Kuratsu.
Mertz said during a family reunion in 2004 that his nine children were his proudest achievement.
He and his wife Elizabeth "Beth" Mertz were married for 36 years and had four children. He and his previous wife, Dr. Audrey Mertz, had five children.
"It's a great family," said Andy Mertz, one of Audrey's children. "We're very blessed. We're all still healthy and very close. It's a testament to my dad."
Andy Mertz said he received an award as the Small Business Person of the Year, and his father, then living in California, flew back for a few days for the occasion. "This is the kind of father he is. He was in our lives whenever he could possibly be, even as adults."
Foster said Mertz wanted to retire quietly and move to California, but his patients found out and with his staff held a huge party for him at the beach park.
"He deserved every accolade he got," Foster said, describing Mertz as "the definition of a good Rotarian."
He was a quiet man who was passionate about the Rotary Foundation, which "makes all good things happen around the world," such as the program to wipe out polio, Foster said.
He said Mertz worked for many years raising money for the Rotary Foundation and for youth scholarships through the Hawaii Rotary Youth Foundation.
"Jim just worked behind the scenes. One thing he didn't want was recognition," Foster said. "He just cringed if someone said, 'Jim Mertz is the greatest Rotarian around.'"
"Over the years he invited all of us kids to Rotary meetings," said Andy Mertz, who became a Windward Rotary member and now belongs to the new Rotary Club of Windward Oahu Sunrise.
His sister Amy, in an e-mail about their father's illness on Feb. 13-14, said he missed Rotary Feb. 1 for the first time since 1968. "Even when he broke his back about 10 years ago, he never missed a weekly meeting," she wrote.
She said her father told his grandchildren shortly before his death, "When things in life seem like a big deal, they probably aren't really such a big deal after all." He told them to "make each day fun."
He followed his own advice and "lived each day to the fullest," his family said.
Mertz was born April 4, 1928, in Trinidad, Colo. He had one brother, Robert, who was also a doctor in Texas and died last December.
After graduating from Cornell Medical School, Mertz served on Indian reservations in the National Health Service during World War II.
Six of Mertz's nine children attended Punahou, and he gave years of service to the school and to the Hawaii State Ballet attended by his daughter Elizabeth, now with the American Ballet Theatre.
Survivors include wife Elizabeth (Beth) of Lincoln, Calif.; sons David of Burlington, N.C., Robert of Granite Bay, Calif., and Harold of Santa Monica, Calif.; daughters Amy Mertz Brown of Bethesda, Md., Elizabeth Mertz of Brooklyn, N.Y., Sara Mertz of Berkeley, Calif., Nancy Mertz Prichard of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Carol Mertz Nakashima of La Canada, Calif.; and nine grandchildren.
No memorial is planned because his father "didn't want any fuss made over him," Andy Mertz said. Condolences to the family may be sent care of him to P.O. Box 10730, Honolulu, HI 96816; or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.