Dr. John Stewart Packham was born on the 31st of May, 1925 to Robert Haney Packham and the former Annie Stewart. He was raised on a dairy farm in Caistor Centre, Ontario with his siblings; Aileen, Marion, Earl, Kenneth and Leta. He attended a small schoolhouse in Caistor Township for elementary school and then Smithville District High School for his secondary school education.
Dr. Packham enrolled in Queen’s University where, during his undergraduate years he worked at a sanatorium in Kingston and developed a lasting interest in the study of tuberculosis. He graduated in 1949 with both a medical degree, and a Master of Surgery degree. He spent the following year completing an internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital, in Hamilton. Realizing he preferred anesthesiology, Dr. Packham spent a year and a half studying at McGill University and the Montreal General Hospital, where he completed post graduate work in anesthesiology.
In 1952, Dr. Packham arrived in Chatham to take over the practice of Dr. Charles Allan Stewart. He worked full time administering anesthesia at both the Public General Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital. Dr. Packham served as the Secretary of the Kent County Medical Society from 1961 to 1964 and he was the President of the Society in 1970. He was a delegate to the council of the Ontario Medical Association and he was the Chief of Staff at the Public General Hospital. He was also on the Chatham Board of Education from 1960 to 1963. He volunteered as a medical adviser for the Lung Association for over 40 years.
Dr. Packham married Barbara Jean Granger. Mrs. Packham was born in Dunnville on the 5th of February, 1924. Her parents were George Henry Granger and the former Alice Caroline Maning. Her father was baker and Mrs. Packham was a registered nurse.
Dr. and Mrs. Packham had 3 children; Carolyn, William and Diane. The Packham family resided at 325 Victoria Avenue in Chatham.
Dr. Packham was very involved in the Kent County Tuberculosis Association. In addition to serving as the association’s president he along with his wife Barbara, did tuberculin testing at area high schools. Dr. Packham was also a charter member of the Chatham-Kent Crime Stoppers and he was the Founder and Charter President of Wildwood Leaseholders Association in Rondeau.
Dr. Packham was one of the founders of the ‘Anesthesiology Association.’ In this association, Dr. Packham and fellow anesthesiologists Dr. Jack Parry, Dr. Henry Peco, and Dr. Bill Reid united to bring all of the anesthesiology bookings into one office. Prior to the development of this association, Dr. Packham recalled that the wives of the anesthesiologists acted as ‘booking agents,’ taking calls from surgeons who needed to schedule surgeries.
After retiring from anesthesiology in 1985, Dr. Packham worked as the plant physician at International Harvester for four and a half years. He then spent a year as the Kent County Medical Officer of Health. Dr. Packham concluded his medical career by spending four and a half years as an officer on the Worker’s Compensation Board.
In his spare time, Dr. Packham enjoyed working on needle-points and gardening. Dr Packham began needle-pointing over 40 years ago, as it was a good way to “keep his fingers nimble”.
Mrs. Barbara Packham died on the 28th of May, 1995. She was buried at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.
Dr. Packham died at his residence on the 27th of February, 2009. At the time of his death he was married to Anne Helen (Cajka) (Baxter) Packham. He was buried next to his first wife at Maple Leaf Cemetery.
*Dr. Charles Allan Stewart, Dr. John “Jack” Clayton Parry, Dr. Henry Carl Peco and Dr. William James Reid all appear on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
**Mrs. Barbara Packham’s father served with the Canadian Forces during WWI.