Longtime Santa Monica resident and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District music and math teacher Darrell Mettler died last month at the age of 81.
Mettler spent more than two decades teaching instrumental music to elementary school students across the District before finishing his career as a math and computer science teacher at Samohi, where he taught for 11 years.
Mettler’s daughter, Janelle Mettler, said she believed her dad would be remembered by his students for the “peace and gentle acceptance” he shared.
“He’s just a solid, really kind, generous, religious, family man,” Janelle said. “To me, the environment [he] created in his career … It feels really safe.”
“I’m hoping that the mark he leaves on each of his students is security and peace and feelings of knowing a little bit about what the frameworks of society are and that they belong,” she added.
Darrell Mettler was born in Bakersfield on Nov. 26, 1940, baptized at Ebeneezer Reformed Church in Shafter, California, and Confirmed at Grace Reformed Church in Bakersfield. He was a lifelong member of the Reformed Church of the United States and served as a church Elder.
He graduated as the valedictorian for the East Bakersfield High School class of 1958 and went on to attend USC’s Thornton School of Music, earning a Masters degree in Music in 1967. While at USC, he also earned teaching credentials and was a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda society, according to an obituary provided by the school district.
He was married Aug. 13, 1966, to Nadine Bowers of Long Beach. Together, they raised two children, Janelle Mettler and Devin Mettler.
Both Janelle and Devin had their dad as a band and orchestra instructor when they attended Grant Elementary School in the 1980s. Janelle called his class a “perfect environment” for young students to learn the basics of music.
“It was a great foundation — a great musical foundation,” Janelle reflected. “I think it was the same for me as it was for all the students; I think it was a great experience to go through.”
When asked how her father thought about his career in education, Janelle said he was a man of few words, but she knew he was satisfied with the work he did in the Santa Monica community.
“Mr. Mettler was recognized in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 1992 in acknowledgement of excellence as a distinguished educator,” according to his official obituary. “In 2004, he was an award recipient at the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District 55th Annual Band, Choir and Orchestra Concert ‘Stairway of the Stars’ in recognition of his time, effort and endless contributions on behalf of thousands of young musicians.”
Mettler was an active member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association including serving on numerous committees and as vice president.
Retiring from his 33-year teaching career, which lasted from 1966 through 1999, did not take Mettler away from his passion for music. For more than 20 years following retirement, he stayed busy performing clarinet, flute and saxophone for the Local 47 Union in Los Angeles, playing gigs with numerous groups including the Physicians Symphony, LAPD Band and Harry James Band, among many others.
Janelle said Mettler continued a rigorous pace of performances past the age of 70.
“He’s in his early 70s, and he tells me, ‘I’m in 16 or 17 different performing groups’ — this is him in retirement! — ‘I try to limit myself to two or three rehearsals or concerts per day,’” Janelle said. “He’s going out all over Los Angeles, driving to all these different concerts and rehearsals everywhere.”
The commitment did not go unnoticed.
“In 2016, the City of Los Angeles presented Mr. Mettler with a certificate of appreciation for service with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Band, and he was presented a five-year service award in 2021 from the USCG Aux,” according to his obituary. “In 2021, he was awarded a Life Member Order of Merit from the Republican National Committee.”
Mettler was preceded in death by parents Mylo Mettler and Leola Gladwell of Bakersfield; ex-wife Nadine Penn; and sister Janet Rodrigue.
He was survived by his brothers Donald and David (Lisa) Mettler; sister Kellie (Myron) Smith; daughter Janelle Mettler; son Devin (Sinead) Mettler; and his grandsons Cathal and Ronan.
A graveside service will be held in Bakersfield at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 26, at Hillcrest Memorial Park and Mortuary, 9101 Kern Canyon Road, followed by a service at 12:15 p.m. Grace Reformed Church, 420 Columbus Avenue, followed by a repast in the adjoining hall. Pallbearers are Erik Wood, Mason Smith, Michael Rodrigue, Stephen Mettler, Mark Kirschenmann, Kenneth Kirschenmann, Paul Bender, Michael Rodrigue, Jr., Cathal Mettler and Ronan Mettler.
If you are unable to attend the service but would like to contact the family, you can reach out to Janelle via email: email@example.com or cell: (661) 378-1355.