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Jack Metcalf, 79

Championed veterans as US representative

SEATTLE -- Former US representative Jack Metcalf, who was a strong advocate for the environment and veterans in Congress until he stepped down to honor a defunct term-limit law, died Thursday. He was 79.

Mr. Metcalf died at an Alzheimer's care facility in Oak Harbor, said the Rev. Matt Chambers, his family pastor. He was surrounded by relatives in his final moments, said his former aide, state Representative Chris Strow, Republican of Clinton.

The longtime state lawmaker was elected to the US House in 1994 as part of the first Republican majority in 40 years. But some of his stances were unusual for a conservative, such as fighting the Makah Tribe's attempts to restart whaling off the Washington coast.

"People describe Jack as a conservative and a maverick, but the better way to say it is he was true to himself and deeply devoted to the citizens who elected him," US Representative Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington., said in a statement.

Mr. Metcalf led long-term efforts to improve natural resource and fisheries management and environmental protection.

An advocate for service members, Mr. Metcalf supported investigations into the causes of illnesses faced by veterans of the Gulf War and worked to increase funding for military family assistance and homeless veterans' programs.

During his 42-year political career, Mr. Metcalf also earned a reputation for occasional quirkiness for embracing issues such as the gold standard and arcane monetary policy.

Mr. Metcalf retired in 2001, after declining to run for a fourth term and therefore honoring a promise to voters who had approved an initiative on term limits in 1992, although the courts had thrown out term limits in Washington state.

Born in Marysville in 1927, the son of a commercial fisherman, Metcalf served in the Army in 1946 and 1947. He later joined the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a patrol boat skipper and worked as a US marshal.

He also worked for 30 years as a school teacher, mostly in the Everett School District.

He served as a state representative from 1961 through 1964 and as a state senator from 1966 though 1974 and from 1980 to 1992.

After retiring from Congress, Mr. Metcalf and wife, Norma, moved into the Log Castle Bed and Breakfast on his family's homestead near the Whidbey Island town of Langley. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's shortly after his retirement, Chambers said.