In loving memory of poet William H. Hetznecker III




“There is a silence between the songs of Robins.

I miss you dear Father of mine.”

Matthew Hetznecker

By Sally A. Downey

Inquirer Staff Writer

William H. Hetznecker III, 79, of Malvern, a child psychiatrist and poet, died Friday, April 1, of pneumonia at Broomall Presbyterian Village.From 1967 to 1987, Dr. Hetznecker treated youngsters at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. In 1974 he cowrote the book On Behalf of Children, a survey of problems and the progress of community child psychiatry in the United States. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, he worked with the Crisis Intervention Network to help reduce gang violence in North Philadelphia.

Dr. Hetznecker, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Temple University Medical School, taught students and residents at St. Christopher’s to develop compassion for the suffering of their young patients, son Paul said.

After leaving St. Christopher’s, Dr. Hetznecker was a vice president of Clinical Affairs for TAO Inc., a managed-care company in Philadelphia specializing in mental health and chemical dependency.

For 30 years, he was also a consultant to various institutions including the Philadelphia, Upper Merion, and Lower Merion School Districts.

Dr. Hetznecker served as an examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Child Psychiatry.

He began writing poetry in 1950, and in 1998 he retired to devote himself his second passion, his son said. His work was published in poetry journals, including the American Poetry Newsletter, the Literary Forum Anthology, and the Blue Satellite.

He often read his poems at the Tyme Gallery in Havertown. In a tribute, the gallery’s website said, “Bill had a true understanding of the human spirit.”

Dr. Hetznecker grew up in Evanston, Ill., where he was the star running back on his high school football team. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University, a medical degree from Loyola University in Chicago, and later a master’s degree in radiation biology from the University of Rochester.

After completing an internship at Indianapolis’ General Hospital, he was a physician for the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington and on an Indian reservation in Minnesota. He completed a residency in psychiatry at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., and had a fellowship in child psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore.

Besides writing poetry, he enjoyed jazz and classical music. He and his wife, Noreen Ryan Hetznecker, were subscribers to the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Wilma Theater, and the People’s Light and Theater Company. The couple met in Chicago and married in 1957. He was her helper after she became blind in the 1990s.

His health began to decline after she died in 2008, their son said. “They weren’t meant to be apart. He truly died of a broken heart,” he said.

In addition to his son, Dr. Hetznecker is survived by sons Matthew, Dan and James; a daughter, Sarah; and nine grandchildren.

Friends may call from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, and 8:30 to 10 a.m., Wednesday, April 6, at Stretch Funeral Home, 236 E. Eagle Rd., Havertown. A Funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 6, at St. Margaret’s Church, 208 N. Narberth Ave., Narberth.

Donations may be made to Elephant Listening Project, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd., Ithaca, N.Y. 14850.

Our heartfelt condolences Matthew…L. K. Thayer


  1. Julie · April 6, 2011

    Matthew dear, my love and thoughts are with you now and always. I’m so sorry for your loss.


    • lkthayer · April 6, 2011

      Matthew your father would be so proud of the incredible poet you have become…
      may he rest in peace. Lisa

  2. Karen Ross · April 6, 2011

    Matthew, I am so sorry to hear about your lose. Your father sounds like he was a wonderful person who helped so many in his life time.

    Please take care of yourself the best as you can during this difficult time of grieving.
    With warmest wishes to you,

  3. Adesh Kaur · April 9, 2011

    I love you Matthew. All blessings to you.

  4. Malinda Laird · April 10, 2011

    Dear Matthew I wish you a light heart and peace during this difficult time. I am so very sorry to learn of your father’s death. He was very accomplished and an artist too. So wonderful. Love and hugs to you. Malinda

  5. Debbie Ivens · April 10, 2011

    Oh, sweetie. I’m thinking of you with love.

  6. Matthew Hetznecker · April 12, 2011

    Thank you Lisa and Alexis, for making this happen. Thank you all the kind words from everyone. I can’t tell in words how much it means to me.
    I’m a very proud son. He was/is a great man.
    So much love to all!

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