Mark A. Packo, resident of Oregon, Ohio and one of Toledo’s award-winning photographers, filmmaker and designers, passed away at Bay Park Hospital in Oregon after a protracted battle with complications of diabetes. He was 68.
“Mark had an extraordinary eye and talent for capturing emotions with his camera and with his pen. And, he did it like none other. He had the perfect balance of perfection and joviality,” said his brother Kirk. “His gentleness and love of visual beauty was exquisite.”
Mr. Packo was born May 2, 1951 in Toledo, Ohio to the late Robert and Mary Margaret “Bess” Packo. Robert was the eldest son of Tony Packo, renowned Toledo restauranteur. Mark and his younger brother Kirk attended both St. Angela Merci Hall Elementary and St. Stephen’s Elementary in the Birmingham neighborhood of East Toledo. Mark and his family moved to a historic farmhouse in Oregon in 1962. Mark attended Cardinal Stritch High School graduating in 1969. While at Stritch, he embarked on his future by following in his father’s footsteps as photographer and designer. He was the editor-in-chief of the Stritch yearbook which included a then novel vinyl record of “Stritch Sounds.” He co-edited “Profiles” a regular youth page column with friend D. Mark Hornung in the Toledo Catholic Chronical. His photographic creativity earned him a first prize national scholarship from Kodak in 1969. He went on to study graphic design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York through 1973. He began his career as an art director in New York City and taught typographic design at Parson’s School of Design in Manhattan.
Mark returned to Toledo in 1980. He worked as a graphics art director at both Wiedersehen-Strandberg and Fahlgren & Ferriss. In 1983, he co-founded the Toledo design firm Packo, Mitchell, Hanson & Comer. He left to start his own photo and film production company, Filmwerks Studios in 1985. Mark and his long-time companion Virginia Clarke, founder of Design-at-Work, merged creative efforts operating in Toledo’s Warehouse District where they actively supported the development of this historic area for many years. Their firms were located in a mid-19th century building on Toledo’s waterfront, the former Buckeye Tobacco Factory. Virginia passed away in 2014 and Mark retired from Filmwerks due to his health the same year.
His print and still photography have been featured in numerous publications including Time, USA Today, Esquire, Metropolitan Home and Communication Arts magazines. His work in print, television and film has won national awards, including an Emmy nomination for the PBS documentary, Air Force One: The Planes & The Presidents, which he co-produced and co-directed. Six quilt making books have been published with his photographs, most recently Quilts by Karen K. Stone. His photography and designs graced several albums of Toledo musician, composer and close friend Tim Story. Additionally, Mark published several photographic books available at Blurb.com, including a 50-year retrospective on the photographic work of friend Harrel Long, a long-time photographer for The Toledo Blade.
Mark coordinated the complex graphic and design elements for the annual meetings of the American Society of Retina Specialists and was awarded the Crystal Paragon Award by Meetings Planners International for the number one meeting held internationally in 1992, beating out such other corporate events such as Microsoft and the Hilton Hotels chain.
In addition to his artful talents, Mark was an exceptional muse. He provided the opportunities and inspiration for a great many artists and photographers throughout his life. His cousin Alana Packo, a dance and photography major at the University of Michigan wrote, “To be graced with a soul as beautiful, genuine and fearless as my beloved cousin and mentor Mark is a treasure that only comes about once in a lifetime. He was pivotal to my desire to pursue the art of photography and I truly would not be the artist and human I am today were it not for his profound presence in my life. His imprint on my heart will remain forever.”
Mark was preceded in death by his parents Robert and Mary Margaret “Bess” Packo, grandparents Tony and Rose Packo, and Margaret and Henry Paluh, aunt Nancy Packo Horvath, and soul-mate Virginia. Surviving are his brother Kirk Packo, MD, a physician in Chicago, and his nephew Robert G. Packo, a filmmaker, actor and audio engineer in Chicago. Also surviving are uncle Tony Packo, Jr., cousins Tony Packo III and Alana Packo, cousin Robin Packo Horvath, and cousins Barbara (Szirotnyak) Halasz and Michael Szirotnyak. Mark’s life joy were his many pets too numerous to mention, but with special remembrance of dogs Zsa Zsa, Ilford, Leica and Agfa, and cat Sweet Pea.
“Mark was my hero and mentor. He had the most amazing eye,” said Robert of his uncle. “He was the inspiration behind my decision to enter the film industry. In grade school I had decided that I wanted to be an artist. I decided that I wanted to be like Marky.” His gentleness, smile, but most of all his talent will be missed by many.
Burial will be private at St. Ignatius Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Diabetes Association. Online condolences may be left for Mark’s family and friends at www.freckchapel.com. A memorial service is planned celebrating Mark’s talent and life to be held in January 2020. Memorial service plans for next January will be posted at the Freck website and on Facebook.
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