At Funeral Services September 1, 1997, Blackfoot, Idaho
We are all here because we have at least one thing in common: Howard Packham touched our lives in some way, great or small, and we will miss his immediate presence in our lives.
I have the privilege and honor to present the life sketch of this man, who was my father.
In a way it seems wrong to try to summarize 85 years of a man's life in just a few sentences. But, on the other hand, when viewed against the backdrop of the vast stretch of time that is the lifetime of our universe, even 85 years is just the blink of an eye. And so a life sketch serves as a reminder of that fact.
A life sketch is a list of events:
Howard Packham was born July 30, 1912, in Pleasant View, Utah, to Charles Austin Packham and Mary Ann Hickenlooper Packham, both of whom were descended from good Mormon farmer stock. Howard was their fifth child and fourth son, of what would be eight children.
The family soon moved to Groveland, where Howard grew up on the family farm. He graduated from Blackfoot High School and attended college in Pocatello, where he met Delmar Walton. They were married in January 1933, in the depth of the Great Depression. He found work as an apprentice embalmer in Pocatello, and later took a job at the Brown Eldredge Company in Blackfoot as an embalmer. When that company dissolved in the mid-40s, he and E.T. Peck established a mortuary at the present location on Shilling Street, which became Packham Mortuary. Howard and Delmar owned and operated it for 30 years until he retired in 1976, when his son Dean took over the business.
He served the city and county in many capacities, including terms as a city councilman and as mayor of Blackfoot. He served in many positions in the LDS church, including 17 years in the stake presidency and seven years as a bishop.
He spent his whole life in Blackfoot, except for the period after their retirement when he and mother served a mission for the church in New York State. You will hear today his favorite song from that period, played by his granddaughter.
During the past year he began to have health problems. He died August 27, after his third major surgery of the year.
He lived a full life and enjoyed his retirement, almost to the very last. Dad was an avid golfer and a force to be reckoned with on the golf course until last year. When he was 82 he was still able to saddle up a horse at my ranch and go riding off by himself over the hills. I saw him only six weeks ago weeding his tiny garden plot. He had to support himself with the hoe in one hand and his cane in the other, but he was growing things. He loved the soil. I think he liked the fact that at least one of his children was able to live on the land: he was able to enjoy it vicariously.
He had a love for music, which he inherited from his mother. He had a beautiful singing voice, and loved to sing. Mother usually accompanied him on the piano. This love of music is, as you see today, a valuable part of his legacy to his posterity.
He enjoyed and appreciated good food. We never got a letter or a phone call from him that did not include the mention and description of a good meal. A typical phone call would begin, "Hello, son, how are you? Your mother and I were just sitting here after a lovely meal of baked ham, scalloped potatoes, salad, and apple pie, and we thought we'd call and say hello." I am certain that for him the most difficult aspect of his last few days was that he was restricted to a liquid diet. For his sake I hope that the meals are good where he is now.
He lived an unpretentious life, in regard to the material things, except perhaps for his cars: he liked to have a nice car. And he appreciated good quality clothes.
These are the events of his life. But if we were able to ask my father right now which of all these things he would like to be remembered for, I doubt that he would mention any of them. He took satisfaction in all these accomplishments, but I don't think that he would feel any of them worth mentioning as that one thing that gave meaning and justification to his life. So what will be his answer, when asked at the judgment seat: "Howard, name the one thing which will show what you have done to justify your life."
I believe his answer would be: "I kept the love of a good woman, and together we have raised a good family. That is what I have accomplished." I truly believe that is what he will say.
My parents instilled in us children those valuable qualities which have enabled us to make our lives rich in love and the satisfactions of creative hard work. They provided us with the emotional, educational and even financial tools to enable us to live rich, happy and productive lives.
Dad and Mother were always positive and supportive of us children, and self-sacrificing for us. My wife often comments to me how envious she is, that she was not privileged to have such supportive and loving parents as I had. My own youngest son is right now trying to establish his own household, and it is such a financial strain for him that my wife and I are helping him. He was hesitant about accepting the help; he said to me, "Dad, I may not be able to pay you back." I told him, you don't have to pay us back. By helping you, I am only repaying the huge debt that I owe to my parents for the help they gave me. You will pay me back the same way I am repaying my parents: by helping your children in turn when the time comes.
I am not really qualified to give this life sketch - I have not been able to spend as much time with him or see him as frequently as other members of the family or as many of you friends and associates who live here in Blackfoot. When our family was gathered just a few weeks ago to celebrate Dad's 85th birthday, I was privileged to overhear several people express to Dad their gratitude for how he had touched and changed their lives. I had no idea. You people know him, you know best how he has touched your lives. You are perhaps thinking right now of some memory of him, something that will come to mind whenever the name Howard Packham will be mentioned. I would like to hear some of those things, and I hope you will take a moment when you can, and share them with us.
My father was a good man, a good father, a good citizen, and a faithful Latter-day Saint. He spent his life, even in his choice of profession, helping other people. He tried in every moment of his life to live his religion, as he believed it. He had his faults, and failings, and he made mistakes - he was a human being, after all. Some of us may have criticized him for this or that. But that is really not our place, to criticize or judge him. Whoever among us is already perfect may have that right, but I certainly do not qualify as his judge, and I doubt that any of us do. Who of us can cast the first stone?
By whatever standard he may be judged, if we believe in justice tempered with mercy, I am confident that my father deserves whatever rewards await the just. The legacy he leaves us is his own life of service and devotion. He has done what the prophet Micah said the Lord commanded, chapter 6, verse 8: where he told the people that although their priests may require the performance of religious rituals, they are relatively unimportant, says Micah: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" That is what my father did.
The author of Ecclesiastes said, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."
Now is our time to mourn. The other times will come. We must believe that.
I will close with words from the poet Emily Dickinson, which she wrote after her parents died: "Hold your parents tenderly, for the world will seem a strange and lonely place when they are gone."