Rev. William S. Packer of 11 Yale street, former Park Commissioner and an editorial writer for the Boston Globe for more than 35 years, died Friday night, January 11, at the Pond View Nursing Home in Stoneham after a long illness.
Widely known in Winchester and held in high esteem by those who knew him well, Mr. Packer served as Park Commissioner from 1922 to 1945, and was a member of the Recreation Committee in 1946. An authority of recreation, he instituted many recreational activities in Winchester that attracted attention and admiration in many other communities, several of which sent representatives to Winchester to study the system here.
Mr. Packer joined the Boston Globe during the days of World War I and wrote editorials continuously from that time until his retirement three years ago.
Mr. Packer was the son of William S., and Mary K. (Jones) Packer. He was born September 13, 1875, in Baltimore, Md., and was graduated from Yale in the class of 1898. While in college he played tennis and developed an enthusiasm for the game which lasted throughout his lifetime.
Following service in the Spanish-American War, Mr. Packer enrolled in the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge. After his graduation and ordination to the ministry he served as assistant curate of Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn, N. Y.; St. George’s Church, New York City; the Church of the Advent, Cincinnati; and as vicar of St. Mary’s Free Episcopal Church in East Boston, coming to Winchester from the latter post in 1910.
He began his newspaper career as an editorial writer for the Record-and-Advertiser when i was an independent paper on newspaper row in Boston. He also did weekly reports on Boston’s labor problems for several years.
At the time of World War I Mr. Packer went from the Record to the Globe. Later when the rector of the Church of the Epiphany, the late Rev. Murray W. Dewart, went overseas as chaplain with the Yankee Division, he took over the rector’s duties at the church and remained as interim rector until Mr. Dewart’s return, continuing then as assistant rector.
From that time, during his remaining active years, Mr. Packer was closely identified with the Epiphany Parish, often assisting the rector at services and taking services in the rector’s absence. At one time he preached a series of sermons touching on world events that attracted wide attention and brought many to the local church from out of town. He also did a radio series along similar lines that had many listeners. For a time soon after his arrival in Winchester he taught a class of boys in the Epiphany Church School.
Many in Winchester had cause to be grateful to Mr. Packer for his outstanding service to the Parish of the Epiphany and the Community during the influenza epidemic of September, 1918.
With many ill and helpless at home, Mr. Packer organized nursing and food service, personally caring for many of all races and creeds. His battered Ford was a familiar sight on the streets of the town as he delivered hot soup, morning, noon and night, visited the sick, officiated at funerals and comforted the stricken and bereaved.
Though many sickened and died, Mr. Packer, while constantly exposed to the infectious disease, did not know an ill day, continuing his ministrations to the townspeople as long as there was need for them.
An ardent tennis enthusiast, Mr. Packer was rightly called the father of Winchester tennis. He played a leading part in the town’s construction of the fine courts on Palmer street that were named for him in 1949, and he never tired of playing, teaching and coaching tennis whenever opportunity presented.
He personally developed several Massachusetts State Junior Tennis champions in Winchester and for several years a conducted indoor classes at Winchester High School, to which all youngsters were welcome. He was regularly on the courts at Palmer street coaching and teaching at 6 o’clock in the morning, getting in several hours of strenuous exercise before leaving for his editorial duties at the Globe.
Yearly he drove Winchester youngsters around to various tournaments at Longwood and the North and South Shore and he was a familiar figure at matches everywhere, his opinions of players and strategy being held in esteem by coaches, players and fans.
Father of three daughters, Mr. Packer was especially interested in sports for girls and never lost an opportunity to aid in developing girls programs wherever possible. He felt that, far from a rich man’s game, tennis was for every one, and the champions he developed in Winchester came from both sides of the tracks. He had scant use for the uncooperative and many a ’til then pampered youngster got his or her first taste of personal responsibility when he or she arrived late for a tennis outing and found that Mr. Packer and the others had gone at the appointed time.
On the floor of the town hall Mr. Packer fought successfully for enlargement of the town’s tennis and recreational facilities, contending that a program that other communities were copying was worth supporting. His efforts on the Park Board were almost exclusively devoted to recreation.
Mr. Packer was a member of the Parsons Club of Cambridge and of the Monday Club of Winchester.
In 1905 Mr. Packer married Gertrude Frost of Waltham who died three years ago. He leaves a son, William S. Packer, Jr., of Winchester; three daughters, Mrs. Cedric Seager of Washington, D. C., Mrs. Ewart Seager, also of Washington, and Mrs. Burges Green of Providence, R. I.; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held Monday afternoon at the Church of the Epiphany. Rev. Murray Dewart, Jr., of St. Mary’s Church, Brookline, and Rev. John Harper of Foxboro officiated, assisted by the rector, Rev. John W. Ellison. After cremation interment will be in the family lot in Wildwood Cemetery.