About Bernie Packard
My father, Bernie, has always been the kind of man his children wanted to emulate. In fact, between his children and their spouses, 11 have become attorneys. (He also has two sons who are doctors.) Many times, life gave Bernie every reason to quit, but he never did. He once told me, “If I had one ace in life, it was this: Every time life punched me in the mouth, I decided to get back up.” Bernie is a living example of what can happen when we approach life’s disappointments with optimism and grit.
Bernie was born on a farm during the great depression. Life on the farm was already hard, but it became even harder when his father became a Japanese prisoner of war for almost all of World War II. The family worked night and day to make a living. Finally, Bernie’s father returned from the war, but a few years later, a plane carrying both of his parents crashed, completely disabling his father and killing his mother. It was a dark, lonely time for Bernie, but his reaction to this tragedy set the tone for the rest of his life. He promised himself that “he would become a good one.”
He picked himself back up and started to attack life with determination and hope. He finished high school, married Sarah Hayes, graduated from law school, and raised 13 children. Life seemed to be going perfectly when tragedy struck again. A leaky gas line caused our home to erupt into flames, and his eight-year-old daughter, Rachelle, perished. Although the pain and despair were almost suffocating, Bernie and Sarah resolved that they would not let their child’s death consume the rest of their family. They showed us how perseverance combined with a resolve to stay motivated always triumphs over life’s challenges. The years passed, and things seemed to improve.
Then, tragedy struck again. Bernie’s wife, Sarah, contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease, and she was given less than two years to live. Rather than quitting and waiting to die, Bernie and Sarah decided to live. They toured the Holy Land, where the savior carried his cross, and they took the family to the east coast for one final family vacation. At home, they cherished every moment they had together. As the end approached, Bernie personally cared for Sarah’s every need. He wanted to do it himself, and she died at home in his arms, surrounded by her children. Heartbroken, Bernie refused to let Sarah’s death tear the family apart. When one child felt especially troubled, Bernie said: “I have lost my wife, and you have lost your mother. I will not lose my family.” Bernie remarried Nancy Howell, and his family and business flourished. Bernie kept his promise to “become a good one.”
Today, Dad’s life has profoundly influenced the way we approach adversity. Dad didn’t just talk about getting back up, he lived it – over and over again. Through him, we learned that our choices, not our circumstances, define who we are, what we can do, and who we can become.