Remembering WPR’s Jim Packard

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A man who was an institution at Wisconsin Public Radio passed away Monday at the age of 71. Whad’Ya Know announcer Jim Packard did it all over his 31 years in public radio, starting on WPR as a news reader in 1981. Then he pretty much did a lot of everything. He was a talk show producer and fill-in host for Larry Meiller. As a news reporter, he excelled in human interest stories. But he became known nationally as the straight guy for Michael Feldman in the Saturday quiz show “Whad’Ya Know”. “Stylistically, we were really a good mach too because he is, for want of a better word, I would call it Norwegian, and I am, for want of a better word, somewhat Jewish in my approach,” Feldman said. “And it’s an interesting conflagration when those two fronts meet.”

Part of the shtick was to do a “town of the week” on the show. Packard would give a rundown on the town, sometimes to his own peril.

(Packard): “Some mining goes on nearby and a new mine is scheduled to open soon. Other employment is found in agriculture…” (Feldman interrupts) “What do they dig there?” (Packard) “Ah, dig?” (Feldman) “Yeah.” (Packard) “Awww…” (Feldman) “It’s a mining term.” (Packard) “They have the most extensive variety of minerals found anywhere…” (Feldman interrupts) “I heard that part, Jim. But what do they dig?” (Packard) “They dig it all.”

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Their last show was June 9th in New York City. Feldman says throughout their 27 years together, Packard was his rock. “God, there’s big opening there which can’t be filled,” he says. “Actually, he’s completely irreplaceable both as a personality and a person. I’m going to miss him terribly. All I can say is he was my best ever, my only, good long-term relationship was with Jim Packard.”

Whad’Ya Know will broadcast from Madison on Saturday. Feldman says Packard would be the first to say, the show must go on.

You can read more about Jim Packard and leave a comment on our tribute page.

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