ST. PETE BEACH — Jennifer Packer loved everything Celtic, from bagpipes to blessings.
She was instantly recognized at local Celtic festivals. For almost 20 years, she worked as manager of her family's bar, the Harp & Thistle on St. Pete Beach. Her mother was Irish, her father Scottish.
She greeted customers with hugs. She helped Celtic bands get publicity and booked them at the bar. She drove folks home when they drank too much, but didn't care for drinking herself.
She lived with her mother, Patricia Packer, on Gulf Boulevard. Her father, Bob Packer, died in 2001 of Lou Gehrig's disease. Every morning, Ms. Packer told her mother, "Good morning, my bluebird of happiness."
She'd tell her mom to blow off cleaning the house. "We have better things to do." They'd pick up Ms. Packer's daughter, Meaghan, 26, and go to lunch.
She remembered birthdays, sending Chuck E. Cheese coupons to nieces and nephews.
She watched romantic movies at the Beach Theatre. She saw Ladies in Lavender three times. She admired Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn and bought used books about them at the library.
She also followed the Catholic faith and read literature about angels. She read her horoscope every morning and tried to avoid bad news in the paper.
She was a Republican who had pictures of George and Laura Bush on her wall, alongside Elvis and the Beatles.
She loved to photograph people. Once, she took a picture of her mother standing on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
She excelled at crafts and flower arranging. For her parents' 25th anniversary, she made them a 2-foot tall ceramic wedding stein.
She always left notes with smiley faces.
"She was the most vibrant person that I have ever met," said Billy Hannon, a Harp & Thistle loyal. "She just helped everybody."
She often went to the beach by herself to think. It's where she spent her last moments.
She was pre-diabetic and took medication for high blood pressure, her mother said. Sunday, police found her body in the Intracoastal Waterway on St. Pete Beach. Her family believes she drowned accidentally. She was 51.
"She drew her strength from people," said Patricia Packer. "And I drew my strength from her."
Her daughter loved limericks and colloquialisms.
She wrote "Love, Loyalty and Friendship" on the bottom of all her checks. One of the last things she told her daughter was, "May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live."
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)