Evelyn Petersen Metzger, 83, the daughter of a Minnesota governor, grew up speaking Danish but found success as a professional in her second language, as the Washington editor for book publisher Doubleday Inc. and as the founder of her own regional book publishing company in Reston. She died of cancer Oct. 2 at her home in Arlington.
Mrs. Metzger started EPM Publications in 1975, after a 15-year career with Doubleday.
"That wasn't a stretch for my mom," said Lise Metzger, who described her mother as very independent. "She didn't have any trouble knowing what she wanted and going for it."
Mrs. Metzger's first major book as a publisher was "These United States," with text by Time journalist Hugh Sidey and photographs by Fred Maroon, whose work was later shown at the National Museum of American History and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The book was presented by President Gerald Ford to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during her visit for the U.S. bicentennial.
In its 29-year history, EPM published scores of titles by and about the people of Virginia, Washington and the mid-Atlantic region, as well as award-winning and often-translated design and technique books for quilters.
Mrs. Metzger's last book was released in April, "The Recollections of John Mason: George Mason's Son Remembers His Father and Life at Gunston Hall," from John Mason's diaries.
While at Doubleday, she was instrumental in publishing Allen Drury's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Advise and Consent," and she worked with many other well-known figures, including Hubert H. Humphrey, Lady Bird Johnson, Haynes Johnson, Eric Severeid, Margaret Chase Smith, Eugene McCarthy and James J. Kilpatrick.
A. Robert Smith, a former Washington correspondent for the Portland Oregonian, wrote a biography of Oregon Sen. Wayne Morse at her behest. He called Mrs. Metzger "a brilliant copy editor, a masterful editor with a vision of topics for stories, and a nonpartisan working in a very partisan town -- quite a remarkable professional in her craft."
Mrs. Metzger was born in Sandstone, Minn., and grew up in Askov, Minn. Her father, Danish immigrant Hjalmer Petersen, was governor of Minnesota for just a year in 1936 and also ran the daily Askov American newspaper. His daughter graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1942 and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
She relocated to the Washington area after college and worked as an editor for Pathfinder, a newsmagazine. She then went on to National Geographic, where she may have been its first female editor, as her family and friends recalled. She was listed on the masthead of the magazine as a member of the editorial staff.
Mrs. Metzger was required to resign her position when she became pregnant in 1956. But before the baby's birth, the tireless editor signed on with Doubleday and scouted out eight new titles for the publishing house.
Mrs. Metzger was a member of the Women's National Press Club, now the Washington Press Club, and the National Press Club. Her passion was helping new authors. She also loved to sing with friends and to play her piano or violin.
She lived in McLean for 44 years before moving to the Jefferson retirement community in Arlington.
Her first marriage, to Evron Kirkpatrick, ended in divorce. Her husband of 45 years, Dr. Arthur Metzger, died in 2000.
Survivors include a daughter from the first marriage, Anna Kirkpatrick of Autun, France; two children from the second marriage, Lise Metzger of Falls Church and Jon Metzger of Gibsonville, N.C.; a sister; and a granddaughter.