SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — She was just Robin. Nothing more, nothing less.
But who, exactly, was Robin Nance Metz?
She was a wife, mother, friend, and artist. She studied graphic design and illustration at the University of Montevallo and Auburn University, working as a commercial artist for 20 years before stepping back to devote herself to raising her children.
Robin was extremely well known throughout the community of Montevallo, even having several of her drawings hanging in university buildings.
She was a person that, according to her family, “just squeezed every single ounce of joy out of life everyday,” despite her own hardships.
Robin enjoyed dressing up in costumes. She loved to laugh. And she loved sitting on her front porch.
The porch is where Tonia Mayton and Robin grew their friendship through many long, candid conversations. It’s also where Mayton was introduced to her first dirty martini, one of her favorite memories with Metz.
Mayton would help Robin film YouTube videos, where she was often dressed in a costume or wearing a funny hat or wig, showing how she created her art and describing what it meant to her.
“[The videos] were just a way for her to find laughter and joy, in what would normally be a very hard time for anyone,” Mayton said.
The hard time Mayton is referring to began on March 23, 2020, when Robin was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. She spent 15 days alone in the hospital with art supplies delivered by her husband, Ted, to keep her company.
From that point on, an online journal began, specifically to update her friends and family on her condition, documenting, sometimes, unfortunate setbacks, but also celebrating the tiniest of victories in her fight against the disease.
On April 10, 2020, Robin was discharged from the hospital. Exactly a month later, on Mother’s Day, her artwork was featured on CBS Sunday Morning, a news program that has been on air since the 1970s, and is known in part for its sun logo and the sun artwork featured throughout the show.
“I was so excited and I thought, this is pretty cool that I will end my life with this,” she said. “This is a good bookend,” Metz said in a 2021 interview with CBS 42.
Robin tuned into the show every Sunday, and had decided to send in a painting and several pictures of ceramic platters she had made that had sun’s on them.
Jessica Frank, an associate director of “CBS Sunday Morning” who is also in charge of picking the sun-themed artwork each week, said she loved receiving Metz’s artwork and that it always immediately stood out to her, like they had a story to tell.
“Everything had so much more of a dimension than anything I would expect,” she said. “There was always an extra layer I was getting from her.”
Even though she never met Robin in person, Frank said she felt she knew her through the letters that she would send, always looking forward to them.
“Every time I got a letter from her, she was such a delight,” she said. “I always kept her notes.”
Over the last two years, over 20 pieces of Metz’s artwork have been used on the show. Frank said there are plans to use more of her art in upcoming programs.
On May 13, 2020, Robin began chemotherapy treatments.
During those tough treatments, she made it a point to remain positive.
“I’ve read that pancreatic cancer is a tough cancer to survive beyond a year or so. My heart doesn’t feel like this is my fate. I feel like there is too much left for me to do on this earth and it isn’t going to get done in less than five years or more. A sense of humor and a hard head are my allies,” she wrote.
Sticking to her word, Metz continued to spread love and create art, often times using it to help others.
Tonia Mayton says that just within the last year, Robin started the “post card project.”
She had several of her drawings printed on to post cards and sold them in sets of five. After selling over 2,500 post cards, she donated over $6,000 to the oncology center where she received chemotherapy, asking them to put the money toward the balances of patients that may have been struggling to afford treatments.
“I can’t wrap my head around how much she thought about other people in that time, and in a way that involved creating art and raising money,” Mayton said. “She just never stopped.”
In her final months, Robin helped Tonia Mayton start an art gallery at Montevallo Presbyterian Church in an effort to utilize space, and attract new members by featuring local artists and their artwork inside.
The Nance Metz Gallery at Montevallo Presbyterian Church was named in Robin’s honor and opened on August 28. The first artist to be featured in the gallery was, of course, Robin Nance Metz.
On September 24, in a journal entry written by her daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Wilde, Robin’s followers received an update that sent shockwaves throughout Montevallo.
The message read:
“On September 23rd, at around 4:40 pm, we lost a beautiful source of light and love. Her spirit will continue to live in our hearts and push us every day to choose love and seek joy even on our darkest days.”
Robin died peacefully at home with her husband of 10 years by her side.
Robin’s cousin, Pam Lilith, says that she believes Robin’s love for Ted, and her positive attitude is what helped her survive as long as she did.
“Even as a child, she was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known in my life,” Willis said. “She wanted to spend as much time with [Ted] as she could and that, along with her attitude, I believe, kept her alive.
Mayton says that since the opening, all of Metz’ original pieces featured in the gallery have sold.
“I’m just sad that she’s not here for me to tell her that all of her art is sold,” an emotional Mayton said. “I don’t know, I just thought she’d live forever.”
Through hundreds of social media posts, Metz’ fans, friends and family have all expressed that they too thought they would never have to live in a world without Robin.
But, Tonia Mayton says Metz wouldn’t want any one to be sad. In one of their last meetings she recalls Robin telling her “don’t focus on the bad things.”
Robin’s family shared the following final thoughts in an official obituary:
“Even though life wasn’t always good to her, Robin was good to life. She blessed us all with her sparkling personality, quiet grace, mischievous wit, relentless optimism, and a heart that simply overflowed with love.”
“She was just Robin. Nothing more, nothing less,” said her daughter, SarahElizabeth Wilde.
Information on Robin Nance Metz’ celebration of life is expected to be announced at a later date.
Donations in her memory may be made to the charity of your choice, the University of Montevallo Art Department or the Alabama Oncology Foundation to continue the co-pay assistance program that she started.
Her art will be displayed in the Montevallo Presbyterian Church’s gallery until October 14. Artwork can be purchased online by clicking here.
CBS 42 digital reporter Drew Taylor contributed to this story.