By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — The founder of Warsaw’s Pickleball Phanatics group was honored at a memorial plaque dedication ceremony in Kelly Park on Sunday, June 13.
Mike Metzger was known locally for his role in bringing the sport of pickleball to Warsaw. Since 2011, Metzger planned and organized weekly sessions and tournaments over the years. He played the sport frequently and even did so one week before his death in January at the age of 79.
Metzger’s family, including his wife, children, grandchildren and sister; along with friends and local pickleball players, gathered at the park for the dedication. The plaque, along with two trees planted by Metzger’s family, are at the entrance to Kelly Park’s pickleball courts.
“This community has grown into a family because of pickleball,” said Kayla Metzger, Mike Metzger’s wife. “I just want everyone to know how special you all were to him. He loved every one of you with all his heart.”
“He was a leader,” said Rick Swaim, Winona Lake Town Council president and Pickleball Phanatics member. “If you knew Mike, you knew he had a love for people and a love for life. And he loved fun. He loved to have a good time. He loved the game, but he loved people more. When you came to play pickleball, he greeted you. He let you know you were important and he made you more important than the game.”
Following the plaque dedication, several in attendance played pickleball in honor of Metzger.
“His focus was always on the people and using pickleball as the vehicle for those who played to have fun and build relationships,” read Metzger’s plaque. “His sense of humor, teasing and hearing him shout ‘dirty player’ when someone hit a good shot are sorely missed.”