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Auto dealer gave back to community

Don Packer, who owned a car dealership on Brand Boulevard for many years, was well known not just for his cars, but for his philanthropy.

“He was an icon around Glendale,” said Jarrett Anderson, who was associated with him professionally and personally for many years. Anderson has recently provided Special Collections with significant material regarding the Packer family’s history in Glendale.

Packer came here as a young boy in 1911, along with his parents and sister, seeking relief from the weather in their home town of Aberdeen, Wash.

“They wanted a change of scenery because we lived in the wettest city in the United States,” Packer told the Glendale News-Press in a story published on Nov. 16, 1984.


Glendale was very small at the time, he added. But the best thing about the place was the weather. “You could enjoy sports every day of the year.”

The elder Packer bought a tract of land at 362 Riverdale Drive and built a home for his family. In 1916, he took over the Studebaker agency on Brand.

Meanwhile, Don Packer enrolled in the newly built Glendale Union High School on Harvard Street and, after being graduated in 1914, went on to UC Berkeley. In 1917, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Heavy Artillery School at Augers, France, and then joined the Fifty-third R. R. Artillery.

He returned from the war as a second lieutenant and, after he was mustered out of the service in 1919, completed his work at Berkeley, graduating with the class of 1920, according to “History of Glendale and Vicinity” by John Calvin Sherer, published in 1922.


Packer joined the Celite Products Corp., which had quarries and plants in Lompoc. He returned here two years later to join his father in the auto agency. He was married to fellow Glendale Union alumnus Fern Cook.

Packer soon took over his father’s business and spent many years in the auto dealership on Brand. When he retired, he turned his skills toward expanding the Glendale Community Foundation.

Through his efforts, the organization increased in size from $25,000 when he came on board to $1 million by 1986, as noted in a 1990-91 foundation newsletter.

Carroll Parcher, then-publisher emeritus of the Glendale News-Press, wrote about Packer in the Nov. 19, 1984 edition.

“The foundation was just one of the countless organizations and causes to which he has devoted his time and apparently endless energy over the years. But it may be the one closest to his heart. For more than 25 years, a good number of those years serving as president, Don has spread the word about the Community Foundation.”

That same month, Packer was honored at Pike’s Verdugo Oaks Restaurant for his ability to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the foundation, according to another Glendale News-Press columnist, Al Friedenthal, writing in the News-Press on Nov. 6, 1984.

“Packer worked diligently for the foundation for 25 years. His efforts have, in effect, created an annuity for those Glendale organizations providing for the needs of our youth, senior citizens, the infirm, the handicapped and the poor.”

Packer died in 1987, at the age of 91, after approximately 75 years in Glendale. After his death, his estate left more than $600,000 to the Community Foundation.



Readers Write: Jim Patric writes that James Cain, in three of his major novels, including “Mildred Pierce,” puts Glendale in the story.

In “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” the action takes place in a roadside tavern 20 miles from Los Angeles, Patric noted. “When someone gets injured, they take him to a hospital in Glendale. In “Double Indemnity,” both the conspiring murderers and the victim live in Glendale. One action scene takes place in Griffith Park. Writers are supposed to write about what they know,” Patric wrote, “so I’d bet he lived in Glendale, or possibly near Glendale. Probably hard to check, but I’d be interested to know where he lived.


If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o News-Press, 221 N. Brand Blvd., 2nd Floor, Glendale, CA 91203. Please include your name, address and phone number.