Mark A. Packo (1951-2019)

Packo scion was noted for his art, love of downtown.

The Blade
Tue, 03 Dec 2019 05:00:00 GMT

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Mark A. Packo, a scion of a famous family of Toledo-area restaurateurs who made his own fame as a photographer, filmmaker, designer, author, and art teacher — as well as a businessman promoting the city’s downtown — died Nov. 25 at ProMedica Bay Park Hospital, Oregon. He was 68.

He died of complications from diabetes, according to his family.

A grandson of Tony Packo, a renowned Toledo restaurateur, Mr. Packo was an award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and designer whose print and still photography have appeared in USA Today and such magazines as Time, Esquire, Metropolitan Home, and Communication Arts.

Some of his photography and designs are featured in albums of Tim Story, a Toledo musician, composer, and close friend.

“Mark had an extraordinary eye and talent for capturing emotions with his camera and with his pen,” his brother, Dr. Kirk Packo, said in a prepared statement. “And, he did it like none other. He had the perfect balance of perfection and joviality. His gentleness and love of visual beauty was exquisite.”

After 12 years of attending classes at Pratt Institute and teaching classes at Parsons School of Design in New York City, Mr. Packo, a dedicated Toledo lover, returned to the city in 1980 to be a graphics art director at the former Wiedersehen-Strandberg and Fahlgren & Ferriss advertising firms.

In 1983, he left them and co-founded Packo, Mitchell, Hanson & Comer, a Toledo design firm. He owned and operated it until 1985, when he started Filmwerks Studios, a film and television production company, in Toledo’s historic Warehouse District. He ran it until 2014 while promoting the now revitalized area jointly with his longtime companion Virginia Clarke, who died that year.

He retired the same year because of declining health.

“It was a very urban setting,” Mr. Packo said of his Big Apple years when he talked to The Blade in 1989. “When I started doing a lot of work back here, I wanted to be downtown. Even if stuff wasn’t happening downtown, I wanted to be here.”

“That’s one of the reasons I never moved out to a place like Arrowhead Park. Besides the advantages of being able to see clients and do things, it’s just nice. I like it down here,” he said.

He told The Blade that his view of the downtown took in Summit Street beyond the creek and its trees, a slim slice of river, and the end of the High Level Bridge. There, in his sunny, bustling office he ran Filmwerks and its sibling, Artwerks, a computer graphics operation.

His Filmwerks debut, the 1985 PBS documentary Air Force One: The Planes & The Presidents, which he co-produced and co-directed in tandem with Elliot Sluhan Productions, was nominated for an Emmy Award. His other print, television, and film work has won multiple national awards.

Mr. Packo also coordinated graphic and design elements for national and international events, including annual meetings of the American Society of Retina Specialists.

His efforts for a 1992 corporate meeting won the Crystal Paragon Award by Meetings Planners International, besting other corporate events including those held by Microsoft and the Hilton Hotels.

Additionally, Mr. Packo published several photographic books available at, including a 50-year retrospective on the photographic work of the late Herral Long, a longtime Blade photographer and friend.

He also published six quilt-making books that featured his photographs, most recently Quilts by Karen K. Stone.

His artistic work has inspired numerous artists and photographers, including his cousin Alana Packo, a dance and photography major at the University of Michigan, and nephew Robert G. Packo, a filmmaker, actor, and audio engineer in Chicago.

“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,” she said in a prepared statement.

Mr. Packo was born May 2, 1951 in Toledo to Mary and Robert Packo, the eldest son of Tony Packo.

In 1969, he graduated from Cardinal Stritch High School.

The same year, Mr. Packo won a national photography scholarship from Kodak and used it to study graphic design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, graduating in 1973.

In his free time, he enjoyed spending time with his animal pets, cooking from scratch, and making jewelry with postage stamps.

Surviving is his brother, Dr. Kirk Packo.

A memorial service is planned in January, with details to be posted on the Freck Funeral Chapel website and on Facebook. The family suggests tributes to the American Diabetes Association.