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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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Obituary

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

jacqueline miller

Posted at 07:00pm
I was 11 and just moved to West Hartford from Lancaster, PA where I was on the Lancaster Aquatic Club. My dad knew I needed to find a team and until that happened, I would be dropped off at Cornerstone Pool. There, George was training several girls in the end lane and, there I was,outside the lane, doing my best to keep up! George noticed my crazy effort and asked my mom, when she came to pick me up,if I would like to swim with him. OF COURSE! I was in awe of these older girls and wanted to be as fast as them!! So was the beginning of a most amazing swim life!! Until George began coaching a team (Newington SwimTeam), we were coached privately in the summer at whatever pool was available in the morning. In the evenings, he would drive all the way to New Britain and train my sister and me at Shuttle Meadow Country Club. I remember well the times the lifeguards wanted to close the pool due to rain, but there was George with his pipe in one hand and his stopwatch in the other! Rain made no difference!!
He trained me all the way to four Nationals and a National Junior Olympics. I did swim in college in Vermont but it was nothing like what I experienced with George.
As a kid, I didn't truly appreciate all the sacrifices he made to train me and other swimmers. I so often remember when Odin and Autumn were born and how the conversations were dominated by his loving chatter about them!! Now, as a parent and grandmother, I understand. I remember Barbara well, too, how she treated my family of a special egg nog at their house in Avon...
wow....so many memories! I still have the little mouse figurine George and Barbara gave me when I got married in1976. I could go on and on and talk about how George was a huge part of my life for many years. Such an incredible boss when I lifeguarded at Fernridge Park for five summers.
There is simply only one George Backman and my heart hurts for his loss. I am sending love and blessings to Autumn and the rest of the family. He lived life well!!

BH

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.
KB

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.
ST

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.
MP

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
ours.
Martha, Hoyt, and Alex Poole
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