Canadian soldiers were fighting in the First World War when Lionel Metrick was born in Ottawa to Jewish immigrant parents on August 15, 1917.
Next month, the retired dentist and Hillel Lodge resident – who still swims three times per week – will celebrate his 100th birthday.
Metrick keeps a faded certificate of “Better Babies of Examination,” in his room at the Lodge. Issued by the “Local Council of Women” in 1918, it indicates he is at the 98 percentile for “physical and mental development for babies of his age.”
“I give my mom all the credit for having produced a fat and healthy kid,” he said. “Any good I achieved was due to my mom who had given me a good start; that and good luck.”
Metrick attended Lisgar Collegiate where he skipped Grades 7 and 8 going directly into Grade 9 after Grade 6.
“The greatest compliment I ever received,” he recalled, “was in Grade 5, when my teacher, in front of the whole class, said, ‘Metrick is a student who leaves nothing to be desired.’”
Metrick attended night school at St. Patrick’s College using money from Bar Mitzvah gifts for tuition. It was only enough money to cover the first year’s tuition so he worked at a shoe repair store, earning $12 a week during the Great Depression.
“I worked six days a week with no holidays, from 8 am to 7 pm, and I gave $11.50 of these earnings to my mom,” he said. “With the rest I bought the Sunday paper – every week.”
After four years at St. Patrick’s, Metrick earned his BA, and went to work for the federal government as a clerk in the Department of National Defence. He then served as an army officer during the Second World War.
In 1942, Metrick married Sarah Dorfman. Originally from Carman, Manitoba, she graduated from the University of Toronto law school – the only woman in her class – and then came to Ottawa to also work for the federal government. They had three children and Metrick now has two grandchildren.
After his army service, Metrick enrolled in the dentistry school at the University of Toronto.
Metrick practiced dentistry in downtown Ottawa for more than 40 years and said he always kept his fees low because he knew his working class patients’ earnings barely covered such necessities as food, clothing and shelter.
Asked for some words of advice as he approaches his centennial, Metrick said he believes in brotherhood, in helping each other.
“Our existence is very short, so we need to always try to contribute to the happiness of the people around us.”