Mary Margaret “Bess” Packo, a long time Oregon resident and wife of photographer, the late Robert A. Packo, passed away peacefully at Hospice of Northwest Ohio. She was 90.
Bess was born on December 9, 1927 in Toledo. Bess and her mother Margaret (Stephan nee Vargo) Paluh lived in the Birmingham neighborhood of east Toledo during her early years. Her stepfather Henry Paluh was a merchant marine for the Great Lakes McKee Sons Lines. The Paluh’s moved to Point Place in north Toledo in the late 1940’s.
Bess attended grade school at St. Stephen’s School in Birmingham and St. Angela Merici Hall. She attended St. Ursula Academy through 1942, transferring to Central Catholic High School graduating in 1945.
She worked as a secretary at Bostwick Braun, a wholesale hardware distributor and one of the oldest still running businesses in Toledo. At Bostwick Braun, she was courted by one of her former childhood playmates, Robert Packo. Bob was the eldest son of Rose and Tony Packo, founders of Tony Packo’s Café, the county’s most famous Hungarian restaurant. Bess and Bob wed on June 25, 1949.
She and her husband Bob began Robert Packo Foto Studio in 1950. She worked as office manager alongside her husband in the commercial photography business located above Tony Packo’s Café. Packo Portraits was a second venture begun in the early 1970’s that Bess fully managed. The Packo Photography enterprise was a nationally award-winning business for the next three decades, until Bob’s death in 1980.
Bess and Bob moved from Birmingham to Oregon in 1966. The couple purchased the Mundy house, a historic farmhouse on Pickle Road built in 1847. The home is the oldest still standing in Oregon. Bess become a local celebrity known for her extraordinary Christmas decorations, erecting and decorating over a dozen full size trees yearly. Her home was regarded the most popular site on the Oregon Jerusalem Township Historical Society Christmas walk for years. During the spring and summer, the Packo’s hosted a series of famous lawn parties on the 5-acre farm, including an annual “Blooming Catalpa Tree” event.
Having been raised in a Hungarian family in the Birmingham neighborhood, and then marrying into the famed Hungarian Packo family, Bess’s roots and passion was for Toledo’s Hungarian commuirmingham commnity, Bess was active as a fundraiser and volunteer for the Toledo Catholic Diocese, directing numerous projects with the guidance of Fr. John A. Thomas and Bishop James Robert Hoffman. She led multiple fundraising efforts for both Cardinal Stritch and Central Catholic High Schools. She founded a still ongoing program that brought performances by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra into many Toledo area churches in the 1970’s. In 1976, Bess authored the book: Games: A Chronical of How We Played and Prayed our Way Through Sixty Years – an almanac of the history of athletics at Central Catholic High School.
“Mom was a huge driving force for my brother and me throughout our lives. She taught us to do everything with determination, creativity and with a passion for perfection,” said her son Mark. “For ninety years, she taught us that nothing was beyond our control.” added son Kirk.
Surviving are her two sons, Mark A. Packo, retired graphics designer, photographer and filmmaker in Oregon, and Kirk H. Packo, MD, an ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon in Chicago, IL. She is also survived by grandson, Robert G. Packo, a filmmaker in Chicago, Il., and brother-in-law Tony Packo, Jr. Burial will be private at Calvary Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Cardinal Stritch High School.