Nicolas Steinmetz

1937 - 2023

Nicolas Steinmetz

1937 - 2023

With profound sadness we announce that Dr. Nicolas Steinmetz died on September 7th- peacefully and surrounded by his family at the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence in Montreal.

Lovingly remembered by his wife Birgitta of 63 years, his children, Oren (Rebecca), Peter (Sharon), Andrew (Jill) and Gabriela (Joseph). Greatly loved by his 10 grandchildren, Madeleine (John), Samantha (Dan), Aidan, Hanna (Lucas), Ursula, Malcolm, Sonya (Evan), Emil, Kaela (Piers), Matthew, and four great grandchildren, Marianna and Lydia (Madeleine), Henry and Jake (Hanna). Survived by his siblings, Andrés, Sybille (Barry) and Gabriela (CH), and his nieces and nephews, Christopher, Shaun, Nicolas, and Kylin. 

Born to German parents in Totoro, Colombia on May 13, 1937, Nicolas came to Canada at the age of 15 to live with his aunt in Sault St Marie, Ontario, and soon became fluent in both of Canada's official languages, adding to his native German and Spanish.

Nicolas moved to Montreal in 1956 to attend McGill University (BSc, MDCM) where he first met and married Birgitta (nee Lindstrom) in 1960. Their four children were born, over seven years, in maternity units belonging to the same network of hospitals that Nicolas, in different capacities, but always with his focus and passion for family welfare and child health, would dedicate the next half century of his professional career.

After a brief stint as a GP in Botwood, Newfoundland, Nicolas returned to Montreal and completed his residency in pediatrics at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, after which he received an MPH from the University of Michigan (Maternal and Child Health 1967-68). In between, Nicolas co-led the first medical resident strike in Quebec alongside his longtime acquaintance Dr. Jean Rochon.  

Language and words were important to him, and whether in personal or professional spheres, Nicolas relished any chance to address his interlocutor in their own mother tongue. In return he became known fondly as ‘Nick’ or ‘Uncle Nick’ or ‘Big Nick’, informal nicknames that spoke to his buoyant optimism and the moral encouragement he offered that had a fundamental and positive impact on the development of many people.

In years ahead, Nick’s approach to family and career were intertwined, inseparable, and infused with the same untempered optimism and visionary spirit. Whether working as a pioneer in the field of social pediatrics establishing outreach clinics in Pointe-St-Charles or Little Burgundy, or celebrating his wife Birgitta’s Swedish cuisine, or launching McGill’s first Family Medicine Unit, or editing his granddaughter’s PhD thesis, or participating in the creation of the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine in Kenya, or allowing his sons to start a rock band in the living room, he encouraged innovation and offered enthusiastic engagement and support.

Throughout his career, he had a standing rule during office hours that if any family member phoned at any time, he would take their call. And he did, whether in a meeting as the Executive Director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital (1987-1995) or presiding over a meeting when he was Director of Planning of the McGill University Health Centre, or as Chairman of the Board of Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation (2006-2011). His availability to family was a safe harbour; and like his moral encouragement, we could count on it.

Nick is remembered for his unlimited intellectual curiosity, his acute sense of social justice and courage to act as an independent thinker, for his disciplined and dutiful and warm nature, for his ambition, vision, and humility, for his mischievous and ironic sense of humour, for his great ability to make friends and appreciate the individual in us all, for his love of family and his capacity to forgive. He and his wife Birgitta formed a juggernaut of unconditional love for an extended family whose sense of themselves will be affected by this love for generations to come. 

Diagnosed with sarcoma in 2019, Nick died as he lived, with engagement, humility, curiosity, warmth, and generosity. His room at the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence became a busy interactive meeting place for great grandchildren, grandchildren, children, colleagues, and friends. Between forging connections with the other patients and staff, the residence became a place for reminiscing, tears, and laughing all within a single visit. Nick always showed empathy for his visitors’ grief and inevitably found a way to express his admiration for their unique character. Nick never shied away from sadness, and every visit ended with one of his legendary hugs. A loving embrace that would be warm, strong, and heartfelt.  

While he has always been cherished by his extended family, his enormous professional contributions in the field of social pediatrics were recognized in 2015 when his name was attached to the newly created endowed McGill University chair in Social Pediatrics: the Nicolas Steinmetz – Gilles Julien Chair in Social Pediatrics in the Community. In 2017 he received a Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers and in 2018 a Knight/Chevalier Ordre National du Québec.

Our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Samuel Benaroya, Dr. Gordon Crelinsten, Dr. Sinziana Dumitra and to the palliative care team at the Teresa Dellar residence for the kind and expert care offered to our dear Nick. 


Nick takes his leave with two quotes that he cherished:

Crossings: by the poet Tagore.

THOU HAST given me thy seat at thy window from the early hour.

I have spoken to thy silent servants of the road running on thy errands and have sung with thy choir of the sky.

I have seen the sea in calm bearing its immeasurable silence, and storm struggling to break open its own mystery of depth.

I have watched the earth in its prodigal feast of youth, and in its slow hours of brooding shadows.

Those who went to sow seeds have heard my greetings, and those who brought their harvest home or their empty baskets have passed by my songs.

Thus at last my day has ended and now in the evening I sing my last song to say that I have loved thy world.


By the poet Gitanji:


I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers! I bow to you all and take my departure. Here I give back the keys of my door — and I give up all claims to my house. I only ask for the last kind words from you. We were neighbours for long, but I received more than I could give. Now the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out. A summons has come and I am ready for my journey.


 A private family memorial will be held.

Comments and tributes are welcome and will be archived at

In lieu of flowers, Nicolas requests that donations be made to the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence.