Musical and Mechanical
Michael B. Packer had a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which came in very handy at his children's science fairs and birthday parties.
"When you walked into the house, you usually walked into a scientific experiment," said Ronald Soiefer, a close friend who had met Mr. Packer when they were Harvard undergraduates. One contraption had a microphone hooked up to a laptop computer, which recorded human voices and showed them as sound waves on a colored screen.
Mr. Packer, 45, of Hartsdale, N.Y., had many other sides. He played the piano and, in his spare time, made harpsichords, a trade he had learned as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard. He made sure that his children — Sarita, 11, and Jonathan, 7 — were steeped in the classics. In June, he and his wife, Rekha, took the children on a tour of the Aegean Islands, following in the footsteps of Homer's Ulysses.
Mr. Packer, who was to be the keynote speaker at a technology conference at Windows on the World on Sept. 11, joined Merrill Lynch in 1999 as a leader of a major e-commerce initiative. "He was very good at managing things," said Mrs. Packer, who remembers most vividly how he coped with the family, the house, his job and her convalescence when she suffered a brain injury in 1990. "Nothing really got him down. We really miss him for that now."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 12, 2001.