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Robert "Bruce" Fitzgerald
D: 2020-09-08
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Sarah Alissi
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D: 2020-09-04
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Audrey Krisher
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Peter Adams
B: 1958-08-12
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Harry Anderson
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Klaus Peter Hennig
B: 1940-06-17
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Robert Figulski
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Dorothy Bors
B: 1933-06-24
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George Backman
B: 1937-02-15
D: 2020-08-16
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Timothy Pusch
B: 1952-02-13
D: 2020-08-14
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880 Hopmeadow Street
P.O. Box 335
Simsbury, CT 06070
Phone: 860-658-7613
Fax: 860-651-0476
George Backman

George Eliel Backman

February 15, 1937 - August 16, 2020
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George Eliel Backman, swimming coach, fisherman and storyteller poet, died August 16, 2020 in Torrington CT at the age of 83.

“George” to everyone he knew, was known for his wry sense of humor, story-telling abilities and willingness to treat everyone as an equal. He was a graduate of Hall High, Trinity College (BA), and Wesleyan University (MAT.). Renowned for his stroke technique and special way with swimmers, he began coaching at Fernridge Park and eventually became the Aquatic Director for the Town of West Hartford for over 20 years. During that time, he taught a generation of lifeguards water safety based upon his own experience in reviving victims, which earned him a Red Cross award for lifesaving. Eventually, he struck out on his own following his passion to deal in antique silver and art glass, while also becoming a founder of Charter Oak Aquatic Club.

His swimmers achieved great success: setting numerous state records and achieving national recognition, including All-American status up to qualifying for the Paralympic and Olympic trials. At one point, his swimmers owned all the CT state relay records for one age group - both short course and long course, a rare achievement and a testament to the range of his coaching talent. George was loved by his swimmers and well respected by parents, coaches and officials for his knowledge of swimming.

A passion for nature and fishing led George to both the Farmington River and Hatchett’s Point in Old Lyme, casting for trout or striped bass with a “Catch and Release” philosophy.

George recited his poetry frequently to both friends and strangers. Please let us leave you with one of his favorites:

Hermit Thrush
Hermit Thrush, gathering dogwood berries of crimson hue,
Yellow leaves raining down from summer, past due,
Singing here today, and morrow be gone,
Briefly our loss, to be another’s song.
So, leaves fall to earth to feed the tree, to berries be…
Hermit Thrush again returns, as do blossoms to me.

He is survived by his daughter, Autumn, his former wife, Barbara, and two good friends, Brian and Jim. He was predeceased by his son, Odin, his brother, David and his sister, Elsie.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Farmington River Watershed Association, 749 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury CT 06070 or at . The Vincent Funeral Home of Canton is caring for the arrangements with Book of Memories at
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Private Condolence

Brian Hogan

Posted at 07:18pm
Wow - David Hager and Jay - so goo'd to hear from you guys. You both meant a lot to George. I had the good fortune to know both of you and have the unique experience of having swum for, worked for and coached with George - as well as to count him among my family as I grew older. You both spoke to the uniqueness that was George. His stories were 'fantastical', but enough were corroborated that you really had to, in many cases, question how the world really worked. Jay - your story was spot on. I can remember so many more: the woodpecker flying over he and his family's head right after his son, Odin, said 'Gee Dad, you'd think the woodpecker would say goodbye', fishing with Jimmy Yow and telling Jimmy to stop casting because the fish were all around them, and sure enough stripers and blues started boiling the water all around them, etc., etc. He was a 'character' David, and the 'rents usually did not 'get' him -- but the swimmers/his swimmers did. He had his foibles, but I will count him as a brother. Rest in peace George.

Keith Brown

Posted at 10:44am
George was such an influential person in my life. A wonderful coach, but an even better person. He was always able to see the potential that each of us brought and while I know I wasn’t exactly the hardest worker, he never let up on me and showed me how a strong work ethic yielded great results.
Over the years since, I have thought fondly of him and how he helped so many of us. I remember his keen interest in antiques and before him, I never knew that there was such a thing as cranberry glass!
It was from George that I learned the joy of a simple handshake. Someday, when my time is up, I hope to shake his hand again.

Susan Tracey

Posted at 09:58am
I will never forget the first day I met George, joining the Charter Oak Aquatic Club at 15. On a team of elite swimmers, some of whom went on to olympic trials, I truly was maybe average at best. He grabbed both of my lats, and said..."Oh, we have a 200 flyer on our team." That may seem like the strangest beginning to the next three intense years of swimming both before and after school, but to me...he saw something in me that I didn't even see in myself. 200 Fly ended up being my best event at UConn. Every practice, he pushed me to do my personal best. It was just what my 15 year old self needed at the time and the lessons I learned from him in that short time definitely carried over in life.
I have seen the quote recently, "A coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime." George Backman...such a gifted coach and special person...I will forever remember you.

martha poole

Posted at 02:23pm
George was such an important part of my son Alex's life from age 10 til he went to college. Alex was a member of the Charter Oak Aquatics Club and it was George who befriended him, coached him in swimming, shared his stories and philosophy of life with our son. Our family all loved George's wry sense of humor and his commitment to his swimmers. Now in his mid 40's, Alex still swims for recreation and keeps in touch with some of the friends he made through Charter Oak. Alex, as well as my husband and myself will always remember George and be grateful to him for all the lives he touched through swimming including
Martha, Hoyt, and Alex Poole

J. Mayer

Posted at 01:34am
In Loving Memory George,

My fist memory is the summer shore rental house as a young kid watching you catch Blackfish for breakfast, smoking a pipe. Or laying us kids next to the Stripers which were bigger than us on the rocks.

Hatchett reef is forever a blessed and sacred place! I am beyond grateful for the stories and experiences and spiritual freedom.

Together, we share a million stories over many years at swim practices and meets taking a long slow ride in the Honda. George positively influenced so many kids lives by simply being a great swim coach with a non traditional personality. Quite honestly, George is desperately missing in today's world. George challenged your mind with his stories, poetry and character. While a kid may not understand at the time, the mere fact that George was willing to be himself regardless of the situation was a role model for us all and made us feel more free than the normal school day. George made us think and feel whether it was about his poetry, swimming or simply what he was going to do next. It never fit a mold of what society expected growing up in West Hartford or the surrounding areas. Freedom of expression and character at its best non-existent today in many ways.

Being family, I personally was able to share more with George. Have you ever held a silver spoon hand hammered by Benjamin Franklin as a silversmith? Have you looked into a diamond and understood how it was cut and measured for clarity with a complete story of how the diamond came to be? When he would bring back a famous painting we could stare at it for hours analyzing it for ourselves in different ways.

Spiritually, George and I are akin in many ways although we lived our lives differently and we both have many stories to prove it. So I will end with a visit from George for you all to ponder and challenge yourselves.

On August 16, 2020, 5 AM. I got up with my son Teagan, and we drove to Steamboat Springs for my son to consider buying a 1969 35 hp Mercury outboard. On the trip up I had this overwhelming desire to play Neil Young on the radio. We started with "Old King". Upon arrival to the RV park we met an older man with a large German Shepard. The man had worked hands, sun worn skin and a mint in his mouth. He proceeded to tell us stories of how he was working on a ranch museum for an 82 year old gentleman that produced dinosaur bones and Indian Artifacts to the Smithsonian Institute. He found the motor on his ranch and was selling it for money to build the museum. While negotiating the price with my son he would stop at every number and tell another story of his experiences on the ranch. He finally agreed on a number and we loaded the motor into the truck. As we drove away listening to Neil Young, I said to Teagan- he reminded me exactly of my uncle George and we proceeded to have a long conversation about George. Now, I could show you a picture but that might just freak you out.

Love you George!! I now understand why Neil has been with me all week. Keeping you in our thoughts forever!!



Thank You for the visit on the day of your passing. I now understand why I have been listening to Neil Young constantly since 8/16!!


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