By: Marshall and Doris Edwards
When I heard of Bob’s death, a torrent of emotions and memories flooded over me. Dr. Robert Packard was, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable men I have ever known.
Our friendship started over sixty years ago – in 1957. I was working in the Union Building Cafeteria and serving in the Colonial Kitchen, which was the Faculty Dining Room. Whenever I would hear cackling laughter, I would always know that Dr. Packard had showed up for lunch. One day he told me that he had a headache and asked if we had any aspirin. I went into the kitchen and made an elaborate salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. In the middle of the salad I placed two aspirin. When I brought it to him, there was a burst of that beloved cackling – and our friendship was set forever.
I was a student in his freshman Physics class – just an ‘average’ student. But years later he told everybody that I was the most outstanding physics student he had ever had. His statement about that was theologically incorrect.
One of the highlights of my life was the privilege that came to me in 1972, when I became his pastor at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. His spirit was always bright and joyous, and he loved to tease. For many years, he and I talked about leading a revival together in which I would preach and he would lead the singing. If you ever stood by him at church and heard him sing, you know that would have set church music back for many generations.
A Baylor co-ed came to visit with me one day and told me that she had signed up for Dr. Packard’s Physics class. I told her that there was one thing that not many people knew about him – that he had a glass eye and loved for people to ask him about it! A few days later, the young co-ed asked Dr. Packard about his eye. As you might guess, he pretended as if he were taking it out, cleaning it off, and putting it back in its socket. Bob loved joking and going along with other people’s jokes.
There were so many things that made Bob stand out. He was a brilliant scholar, an articulate and inspiring teacher, and a compassionate Christian. One day I asked him about university politics. He said, “Marshall, I have no interest in university politics. My only interest is in the students.” That was always true. Baylor students knew that they had a great friend and a forceful advocate in Dr. Robert Packard. There was a lovely goodness about his faith. As he shared his faith, there was never any harshness about it; and he was never judgmental of others. The loveliness of his faith was a great witness for the Lord. His joy was infectious with everybody around him. I don’t think he ever had a bad day.
During my years as pastor of Columbus, he was a wise and caring counselor and a friend to me. He taught in our college department, and I loved going up to the third floor to watch him scurry up and down the hall, trying to find enough chairs to seat the college students.
Joyce, one of Bob’s very best days was when God brought you into his life. What a dynamic duo you have been – always encouraging each other, always supporting each other’s career, and always being there for each other every single day. We all loved watching the two of you interact together. He was so very proud of you!
And here we are – almost forty years since I left Columbus Avenue. You and Bob have continued to be the great friends for Doris and me and for Scott and Cindy. Our family would like to thank you for making us a part of your family – and for the love and encouragement that you have heaped on us through the years.
I can hear it now – when Bob went to be with Jesus, there were whispers that started in heaven among Baylor professors, Baylor students and friends. They were saying, “Have you heard? Bob Packard’s here! It’s going to be a great day!” We always talk about a person’s legacy and what that person accomplished that made a difference in the world. Bob’s legacy is so massive! Literally thousands of people are better because they brushed up against Bob Packard along the way.