Published in The Washington Post on Mar. 15, 2020.
1924 - 2020
Erma Packman, born Erma Fuchs, died March 6, 2020, at the
age of 96.
Born in Brooklyn January 12, 1924, to Abraham Wallerstein
Fuchs and Hannah Gitlin Fuchs, she spent her early childhood
in the south, where her father, a public health engineer, helped
to implement mosquito control.
She and her family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1933, where her father subsequently
implemented milk sanitation and became an officer in the United States Public Health Service.
After having attended E.V. Brown Elementary, Alice Deal Junior High, and Woodrow Wilson
High Schools (1941), she studied Russian and French at Cornell during World War II,
graduating in just three years.
When her children later asked why she had gone through college in just three years, attending
all year round, she replied dispassionately, "There was a war on." Immediately upon
graduation, she went to work in the Pentagon for the OSS, tracking Russian Order of Battle.
Following the end of the war, her Russian skills led her to a precursor of the CIA, where she
met her husband of 64 years, Martin Packman, then a Japanese linguist and subsequently a
career Civil Servant at the U.S. Department of State.
When her children later asked why she had married their father, she replied dispassionately,
"He was the funniest man I'd ever met." They worked together at the CIA for a time in the early
1950s, after which she became a contractor to the agency and raised two sons, Mark and
John. During the 1960s and 70s, she hosted numerous meticulously planned dinner parties for
Foreign Service colleagues and foreign embassy personnel.
In addition, she planned, planted, and steadfastly maintained colorful flower beds and shrubs
throughout the yard of their house on Barnaby Street. When her sons were in high school, she
became the chief editor for Department of Defense research projects at the RAND
Corporation, where she worked for the rest of her career. At RAND, she actively championed
the softball team, a reflection of her lifelong fondness for baseball. She cared lovingly for not
only her husband and sons, but also her sons' friends. She taught them all the importance of
respect for everyone, regardless of race or any other characteristic. She always had a clear
and unhesitatingly expressed vision of what was the right thing to do.
Erma is survived by her sons; Mark's wife, Linda Becker Packman, and John's wife, Susan
Shepard Packman; Mark and Linda's son, Joshua Hersh Packman, and his wife, Rachel
Rosenthal; a great granddaughter, Hallel Ahavya Packman, born to Rachel and Joshua on
January 13, 2020, the day after Erma's 96th birthday; and John and Susan's children, James
Martin Packman and Sarah Lillian Packman.
Her family will organize a memorial gathering in the near future.