~ Contributed by Andrea Cleghorn
A Celebration of Life honoring Ginny and Dave Packer will be held at 11 am on Saturday, July 30, in the sanctuary at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, 75 The Great Road in Bedford.
Last July, the death of long-time community member David Packer came as a blow to everyone who knew him. Then, to compound the sadness, his wife, Virginia Wiley Packer, died later the same month.
The term “power couple” accurately describes Dave and Ginny. They were role models in Bedford and beyond: intellectual equals, fighting for the causes they believed in. They were global thinkers, never afraid to defend what they thought was right, even if theirs was a minority view. They were realists and idealists, both brave and forward-thinking.
Intellectual equals—kind, respectful, and generous—the Packers often worked in sync. They were known and loved for their playfulness, pranks, and creativity. World travelers and global thinkers, they elevated conversations as they challenged conventions and bolstered the lives of friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
They worked to promote organizational learning, systems thinking, and systems dynamics: Dave as a partner in the Systems Thinking Collaborative, and Ginny as president of Pegasus Communications.
The Packers were active in First Parish, the Unitarian Universalist congregation at the iconic meeting house on Bedford Common where both served on the parish committee. Dave was on the search committee that brought John Gibbons to Bedford; Ginny led poetry groups, Sunday services, and was among the founders of the First Parish Lyceum that brings speakers to the church each month.
Together they led the capital campaign to add space and a state-of-the-art elevator that made the 19th-century building accessible to persons with disabilities, a growing First Parish congregation, and the Bedford community at large.
Big thinkers in play as well as work and advocacy, Ginny and Dave were on a cruise when Boston was swirling with snowflakes. At first, they joked about staying on the ship until the New England icebox started to thaw. But when the ice didn’t melt, they stayed on board for a second cruise, returning after the weather improved. Needing tiles for a renovation project, they considered local outlets, rejected them, and went to Portugal and picked them out at the ceramics factory.
Travel also offered broader experiences. The pair traveled to China when few Americans had visited, and considered it a politically life-changing trip; their joint journal is included in Dave’s 2018 memoir, Finding Joy: A Life Explored. After a trip to Palestine and Israel with the non-denominational Interfaith Peace Builders, Dave and Ginny invited multiple world-class peace and justice advocates to speak in Bedford.
The dynamic pair married in 1987, blending their families—Dave’s three children and Ginny’s two —in a historic house on The Great Road, just steps from Bedford Common.
Ginny and Dave adored all five of their children—David Jr., Sarah, and Eric Packer plus Kristin and Craig Wiley—and their spouses. Their family has grown to include 14 grandchildren—on the East Coast, the West Coast, and in between, with one branch in Amsterdam. Ginny traditionally started Christmas shopping early in the fall and was famous for finding just the right gift for each one. (She was also an Olympic-level gift giver among her circle of friends.)
With their children grown, the Packers moved to Huckins Farm, after a ‘house-cooling’ to pare down their possessions so they could move more freely into the future.
Ginny and Dave were brilliant companions, and steadfast friends, serving as mentors and sounding boards to those who sought their help.
According to LeAnne Grillo, vice president and conference director at Pegasus, Ginny often quoted Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
First Parish Minister Emeritus John Gibbons commented, “With head and heart, Dave and Ginny challenged the way we see the world and our place in it. All of us are better for their presence in our lives, community, and world.”