Robert Treat Paine Metcalf


Robert Treat Paine Metcalf passed away peacefully on Friday, January 28, succumbing to end-stage renal disease.  He died in the house where he was born 93 years ago on West Beach Hill in Beverly Farms.

A man of deep New England roots, he was descended from and named after Robert Treat Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence.  He was also a descendant of Stephen Hopkins, passenger on the Mayflower, and Reverend John Cotton, Jr., one of the early graduates of Harvard College, 1655.Robert (Painey) was born on August 27, 1928 in Beverly Farms, son of the late Thomas Metcalf and Elizabeth Paine Metcalf.  Robert attended Groton School, proceeding on to Harvard College, graduating with the class of 1951.  He was a member of Harvard’s Spee Club, and was known to fondly reminisce about the concocting of Sea Breeze cocktails to entertain visitors.  

He married Barbara Putnam Smith in November of 1954.  They were lifelong partners, complementing each other perfectly and raising three children.  From the 1950s through 2020, Robert served as a General Partner for PaineWebber/UBS, reluctantly retiring at age 91.  His zest for life was always evident, as he could be found competing in tennis matches at Essex County Club into his 80s; teaching windsurfing with the Appalachian Mountain Club windsurfing group; biking and hiking with the Appalachian Mountain Club, rafting down the Colorado River, skiing in the Alps, kayaking with the Ipswich River Watershed Association.  He enjoyed sailing, and was, with Barbara, a member of the Manchester Yacht Club for many years.  Robert and Barbara embarked on adventure-packed cruises with brother Tom Metcalf and his wife Patsy, notably along the coast of Maine, dining on sea urchins, narrowly avoiding rocks in the fog, retrieving lost halyards via boatswain’s chair, reviving dead engines and malfunctioning heads – just the usual stuff of sailing.  

Robert was a founding member of the Prides Beach Association in Prides Crossing, and he relished the opportunity for a freezing cold New England swim to the raft or for a kayak paddle to Baker’s Island.  He served on the Boards of the Ipswich River Watershed Association and the North Shore Community College Foundation, helping to establish the endowment and the scholarship program at the latter. He generously gave to many organizations including WGBH and the North Shore YMCA. Barbara and Robert were active in local organizations, the Indoor Court, St. John’s Church, Hastings House, and Beverly Hospital.  They delighted serving on numerous occasions as grand marshals in the Beverly Farms Horribles Parade on July 4th.

Throughout his life, he enjoyed a good party with friends – and he had many friends. In his younger years, he was determined that his three children should become competent tennis players, a pursuit that he personally oversaw on weekends – and at which he was partially successful.  He was unfailingly supportive, fair, and generous with his progeny.  His family and friends might also be struck on occasion with his unobtrusive wisdom in dealing with difficult situations for which his advice might be asked, at times quite Solomon like, with equally excellent results.  He was always available for a thoughtful conversation or guidance about the stock market and finances.

Born at the start of the Great Depression, he firmly believed in the importance of a “clean plate” and the avoidance of waste.  Old sneakers were glued together indefinitely and new clothes eschewed.  He did like to brag that after surviving the inedible Groton School food, he could eat just about anything without adverse effect; and this appeared to be true.  Robert and Barbara enjoyed extensive travel, ready to go at a moment’s notice to Spain, France, England, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Morocco (on bike), Vietnam (on bike), Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, as well as regular vacation spots closer to home with children, spouses and grandchildren in tow, Arizona, Florida, and Aruba. Tennis and windsurfing became his top vacation activities.

When not traveling, Robert enjoyed his life at the beautiful hilltop location of his childhood home, with its stunning view of the ocean off of West Beach, Baker’s Island and lighthouse, Marblehead Harbor, and Salem.  Robert is survived by his beloved wife, Barbara, of 67 years; his three children, Daughter Elizabeth Atkin and her husband Randall Atkin of Weston, MA, Son Robert T P Metcalf Jr. and his wife Diane Metcalf of Lenexa, KS, Son Stephen Metcalf and his wife Virginia Metcalf of Newton, MA.  Grandchildren include Elizabeth Colas and her husband Dorian Colas, Robert T P Metcalf III, Matthew Metcalf, Olivia Metcalf, Francesca Metcalf, Amelia Metcalf; and Great Granddaughter Charlotte Colas.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a memorial service has not been planned at this time. Please, no flowers; Gifts in his memory may be sent to WGBH Educational Foundation: WGBH Office of Gift Planning and Endowment, One Guest Street, Boston Massachusetts, 02135 or North Shore Community College Foundation, 1 Ferncroft Rd, PO Box 3340, Danvers, MA 01923.

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