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, 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 www.frwa.org . The Vincent Funeral Home of Canton is caring for the arrangements with Book of Memories at www.vincentfuneralhome.com