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

“The List” by Matthew Hetznecker

I have a lot to do today.
I must feel my feet on hot
cement and have it rise to
my knees.

I’ll try to catch some smell
as I enter a room,
as it’s sour pungent odor
makes my my head pop back.

I’ll maybe, if I have time
remember something forgotten,
like how I like brown sugar
in cereal and how I would
tilt the bowl to my lips
to drink it’s murky milk.

I could catch the milky white
skin of a red headed man.
Watch as he flashes his beautiful penis
wraps his waist with a green towel
and heads to shower.

Later I might listen, as Angie
washes her dishes, clinking her
plates, then crinkling plastic around bread.
Finally shuffling her feet to her room

Mathew Hetznecker

© 2010

“A Lizards Tail” by Matthew Hetznecker
Buddy cried out from the patio.
I get up from the couch and open the screen door,
he darts in, there it is, again,
a lizard.
This the second Saturday in a row
that Buddy has brought me a lizard.
The lizard plays dead
then a moment later scurry’s away.
I find its tail later near the garden hose.

I praise Buddy for his catch and gift.
In a way I’m touched by his gift.
He’s become the predator I would hope he’d be,
fast, but tender, as in sport.
He sits on my lap and I pet him and wonder what my kid
would be like.

Would he have hair like mine, and have ears that
stuck out like mine?
Would he love insects and love to run?
Would he have my acne?
Who would he have sex with first?
Would a girl suck him off outside somewhere?
Or would his best friend rub up against him, or jerk
him off?
Would he dream dreams that were big and bigger
and never get smaller?

Would I disappoint him?
Would I do something that I wouldn’t remember,
that would make his life smaller?

Maybe I’ll meet him and tell him
that I missed him.
That I missed
tucking him into bed, missed,
lifting him on
my shoulders and carrying him home.

Matthew Hetznecker

All Rights Reserved

© 2010

“Over, There” by Matthew Hetznecker

A shepherd’s farm littered with tin cups.
A pond grew up form a mortar
and in it two fingered bones
draw circles in the brown water

A crooner’s voice whirls like
yellow smoke, bitter and chocked
from a window four miles away.

A Catherine’s wheel or chariot rides
on a sky too dark.
Something small
crawls under
a horse’s rib and rest
his head inside it’s throat.

A green wool coat stained
with mud and blood,
tightens around
a rope on a tree.

Barren hills with pillbox hats
and orange plums
that spit,
with a rhythm that marks the time.

A whistle blows, and a wave
of green or blue unearths itself.

Rattle Crack, ricochet and thud.
Yells and moans, it’s 4 pm again.

There’s a line in a channel of dirt.
A shifting moving millipede of
a creature, it peers over the rim
into a world.

A photograph, a girl with hands
folded in her lap.
She wears black coat with a laced sleeve peeking out.
A blade,
pierces the top and a time piece is wrapped around the handle.

On a rusted, curled razor wire is a
It beats like a wing with the breezes.
An honest flag,
blue bays of wishes, walks, caresses
and kisses.

An angrier god,
One who knew this farm as wood,
full of nightmares.
Woke up from idyllic sleep, cut open
the pasture.
Lay bear a wound,
and claimed his children.

Matthew Hetznecker

Photo by VC Ferry

All Rights Reserved

© 2009