In our journey through life, with all of its ups and downs, we occasionally run into someone who is unique and touches our hearts, causing us to want to get to know them better, hearing their story first-hand. Because I have recently met such a person, and I believe his story is worthy of sharing, I will be adding a new feature to my blog: special interviews. It is my hope that you find these interviews as enjoyable as the time I am spending talking with my new friends. Thank you again for being a follower; you are all special to me!
Pine Acres Family Camping Resort was founded in the late 1950s as a small campground in mid-Massachusetts, adjacent to Lake Dean and near the Wachusett Mountain area. Nestled in small Oakham, the land purchased by Kim and Grace Packard initially was supposed to be subdivided into summer lot properties, but when the building permit process placed impossible demands on the couple to meet compliance, the idea of a campground was born.
With his wife Grace working at his side, Kim began the building of Pine Acres with his own hands and equipment, and named the park after the towering pines that covered the area. They, along with their two children, lived at the park while it was developed, building their home themselves……first it was the Marina and Bait Shop, then what is now the offices. Today, Pine Acres boasts 350 campsites, cabins, and tent sites, recreational activities, events for children, and adults, mini golf, horseshoes, a wonderful pool, and the list goes on! When I spoke with Kim recently, he never imagined Pine Acres to be what it is today; a premier family resort, one of the top in the nation.
Frank Kim Packard, known as Kim to family and friends, was born and raised near Oakham, in Holden. As a boy, this area was his backyard, and he knows it well. Picnics along the river, winter sports, boating, hiking, Kim was definitely an outdoor kind of guy. His family spent many summers at Leno Park in a small cabin next to the lake. Very fond memories of those days created the desire in Kim to provide that same lifestyle for his own two children. That is why Pine Acres was purchased and developed.
On July 6, 1943, Kim was drafted into the U.S. army and was shipped out to Fort McClellan in Alabama for basic training. Because he had tested for the Army Specialized Training Program, Kim was able to attend college, taking civil engineering courses. College was short-lived, though, as Uncle Sam called up more than 116,000 young men from the colleges and returned them to the infantry, manpower needed for the Invasion of Europe. Completing his training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Kim, resourceful as he was, managed to get himself assigned as a jeep driver…..it was so much easier to carry all heavy equipment in a jeep rather than on his back!
Kim was transferred into A Company 269th Combat Engineers of the 69th Infantry Division, where he served as jeep driver for a lieutenant and also learned to maneuver bulldozers. He soon received word that they were going overseas, ending up at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. A few days later they boarded a captured and converted ex-luxury Italian Liner and headed to Southampton, England. The trip, lasting 12 days, was far from luxurious!
Jeeps and jeep trailers were assigned, and Kim promptly began prepping his for combat. The floors of the jeep were lined with sandbags for some semblance of protection in the event of land mines. Crossing the English Channel in Landing Ship Tanks, Kim remembers arriving on the LeHavre shoreline to a scene of total destruction. Deep mud, snow, horrific living conditions, death, and devastation did not stop our young men from fighting the fight of their lives.
Kim and his grand-daughter have published a family book on his memories of WWII, along with a few photos. Most of the stories recount experiences of entering different towns, devastated by the war, and holing up for a few hours or a few days before moving on. Some of the towns’ deceased helped supply our men with ammunition, firearms, and sometimes even food and wine. The loss of good friends and fellow soldiers was hard to bear. The worst of times are not shared, as appropriate.
Completing his tour of duty in 1946, Kim returned home to begin a construction business with his brother and half-brothers. The bulldozing training and experience in the army served him well! Though the brothers’ business did not succeed, Kim went on in construction and can still point to many houses, businesses, a golf course, a hotel, and other projects he was responsible for. He and his buddy who joined the army at the same time, also served as Fire Captains simultaneously.
Today, Pine Acres is owned and operated by Kim’s son, Randy and his wife, Denise. Their two daughters and son are very active in the operation, and together that have evolved Pine Acres into the premier campground and resort it is. Kim, at 91 years young, continues to work, cleaning up campsites after guests have left, checking fire pits for safety, running errands on site for the office and the maintenance crew, and greeting nearly all guests and escorting them to their sites in his golf cart..
I do need to sneak in one story on Kim: he told me of a large snapping turtle he caught. He drilled a hole in the rear of the shell and attached a chain to it. He then let the beast swim in the lake nearest the office. When guests would approach, Kim would begin to haul on the chain, looking as though he had caught a very large fish. To everyone’s total surprise, and to Kim’s pure delight, the beast would emerge, shocking the spectators. Needless to say, Kim was rolling in laughter, even as he told me the story.
Moments of grace: I am so grateful for the people our Lord has brought into my life…..not only the family he chose for me, for they have certainly formed who I am, but for those special people who have touched my life and changed me for the better. Thank you, Frank Kim Packard, for being the honorable, proud man you are today and the wonderful family that is your legacy. You, Sir, are an inspiration!