POSTED WEDNESDAY, September 7th, 2005, AT 5:00 PM, PT

In Memory of
Master Bill Packer
January 18, 1946 - August 19, 2005

Duke City Martial-Arts Legend Put Focus on Integrity
By Rick Wright
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

Packer built a martial-arts empire, but the foundation had nothing to do with martial arts. "His purpose ... was really to cultivate what he referred to as cultural humanism, to empathize with others and put their needs first as the mainstay of his teaching," said Bruce Davis, a longtime student, friend and business associate.

"He used martial arts to instruct all of us, his students, in traditional values. Those are specific, like courage, discipline, respect, honesty, integrity and excellence." Packer, an Albuquerque martial-arts competitor, promoter, teacher and entrepreneur, died early Friday morning after a long battle with esophageal cancer. He was 59. Packer moved to Albuquerque from Arizona in the late 1960s. He opened his martial-arts school, American Kenpo Karate Academy, in the university area.

There now are four AKKA schools in Albuquerque, five more elsewhere in New Mexico. The AKKA Web site lists 28 locations throughout the United States and one in Mexico. Elsewhere on the site, it is stated that there are more than 30 AKKA schools. Jim Hawkes, a local martial-arts legend who preceded Packer in Albuquerque, watched as his rival— first in competition, then in business— gradually won a giant slice of the pie. That, Hawkes said, never affected their relationship. "(Packer) was just the greatest guy," he said. "We were great friends." Packer also excelled as a karate and kickboxing trainer, manager and promoter. One of his proteges was Albuquerque's Tony Sigala, who later followed his manager into the martial-arts business. "He was my best friend," Sigala said. "But he was more than a friend. I loved him like a brother." Yet, despite their friendship, Sigala said, he rarely could bring himself to call Packer by his first name.

Sigala wasn't alone; throughout the martial-arts community, it was "Mr. Packer." "I called him 'Big Bear' when I was joking with him because my name in the ring was 'Little Bear,'" Sigala said. "... But he was my hero, and I couldn't bring myself to say, 'Hey, Bill.'" Fred Absher, like Hawkes, was Packer's business rival— and a friend. "A handshake was a deal, and (Packer) was good for his word," Absher said. "For him, (integrity) was a project, a concerted effort to make sure no one was forgotten, no one was left out, that nothing fell through the cracks."

Davis said he marvels at the number of people Packer influenced— people he coached, people his students coached, etc.— during his 35 years in the martial-arts business here. "He made countless changes in people's lives," Davis said, "and his intent was always to be for that better. "I'll vouch for that ... I loved that man." Packer was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June 2004, Davis said. He underwent chemotherapy and was doing well until treatment for a collapsed lung earlier this summer revealed the cancer had returned. "He had totally accepted (his fate) and looked forward to what the new possibilities were," Davis said. "... He was still concerned for others up to the last minute. "I saw him trying to have a phone conversation when I was (visiting). He was still saying 'How are you?' and 'If you need anything, call.'

It was pretty amazing." Packer died barely two hours after Albuquerque policeman Michael King, a longtime student and close friend, was shot to death in the line of duty. "It's a tragedy for the martial-arts community," Absher said. "Mr. Packer's passing has caused a lot of sorrow, but it was expected. Mike's was a shock." Sigala said he'll miss Packer, his hero, friend and mentor, on all of those levels. "He was probably the most honest man I've ever met," he said, "sincere in everything he did. Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit. "You name it, he had it."

Copyright 2005 Albuquerque Journal

William Patrick Packer
January 18, 1946 - August 19, 2005
With Love and Honor We will miss you A legend A Martial Arts Icon A silent sage whose actions will echo for generations to come A loyal Duke City resident for 35 years A successful business owner of American Kenpo Karate Academies headquartered here in Albuquerque, NM A veteran of war
On Friday, August 19, 2005, 10th degree Blackbelt (the highest level attainable) Grandmaster Bill Packer has graduated to the next level. May God Bless. He leaves a legacy in history that will not be short lived as well as a loyal following of Martial artists and Martial art students that circle the globe. World reknown for his contributions in the Martial Arts community: Boxing, Kickboxing, and Thai fighting, he was not a stranger to competition or the ring, starting his lifelong passion in his teens and following a discipline of constant and neverending improvement lifestyle until his final ascent. Mentor and trainer to more than 16 world champions, founder of no less than 30 karate school businesses still in existence, he touched the lives of tens of thousands - heart and mind, filled them with traditional values: love, honor, integrity, respect, and courtesy to their fellow man, then polished it off - confidence to be successful in their endeavors of life. He was a true messenger. A true guide. May grace and mercy receive him.
He is survived by his devoted wife of 38 years, Marisela Packer; a son of honor, Jared William Dean Packer; a faithful, loving, and caring brother, Mort Packer; and his father, Buford Dean Head, who we will never be able to express enough gratitude and appreciation for sharing his son with us; a list of nieces and nephews that would fill this page; along with a following of students loyal to the same cause; not to mention his friends, acquaintances, colleagues, peers, and life's brothers and sisters he welcomed long the way. God Bless. Services are being held, Strong-Thorne Mortuary, 1100 Coal SE, Albuquerque, NM 842-8800.