AUGUSTA — LTC Michael J. Backus, 44, of Wilton, died unexpectedly on Monday, Jan. 7, of natural causes while at work at the Maine Army National Guard.
He was born during a blizzard, Feb. 10, 1968, in Farmington, the son of John Backus and Brenda (Toothaker) Backus. He received his education in Wilton schools and was a 1986 graduate of Mt. Blue High School, where he was both a scholar and an athlete. He continued his education at West Point, graduating from the Military Academy in 1990.
On April 20, 1991, he married his high school sweetheart and soul mate, Kristie Pillsbury in Punta Gorda, Fla. Together, they embarked on a life dedicated to raising a loving family and serving country and community.
Michael achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel and proudly served in the U.S. Army. He flew Medevac helicopters with the 112th Medical Co. in 2003 while the unit was deployed to Iraq.
Upon his return stateside, he was handpicked to help establish the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program in Maine, beginning the ongoing relationship with the country of Montenegro. He had also served as director of public affairs for the Maine National Guard before becoming the executive officer of the Guard’s 52nd Troop Command in Bangor in 2008.
In February 2009, he became the recruiting and retention battalion commander for the Guard and in May 2012, was promoted to Operations Branch Chief for the Directorate of Logistics of the Maine Army National Guard, Camp Keyes, Augusta.
He was a member of the Farmington American Legion Post 28, the Frank L. Mitchell VFW Post 3335 of Jay, the Wilton Lions Club and the Wilton Fish and Game. He was a member of the Wilton Congregational Church, UCC, and was an official member of the “Chicken Barbecue Squirting Group” at the annual Blueberry Festival.
Mike gave tirelessly to area youth sports teams, particularly the Wilton Youth Baseball program. Described by his sons as “selfless and amazing,” he taught them the value of diligence and sacrifice. He coached all three of them in the Wilton Little League Baseball program and was an active parent, either volunteer coaching or attending home and away games as well as musical programs and plays.
Wherever his children’s interests took them, he was there, respecting and supporting their choices and always offering encouragement. Though he never got his deer, he enjoyed hunting and being out in the woods, a tradition that he was passing along to his sons.
Quiet times, Mike could be found with his nose in a book and offering quotes to his family by General MacArthur.
His legacy was friendship.
He is loved by his wife of 27 years, Kristie of Wilton; their three sons, Ryan Michael Backus, Nathan John Backus and Evan McCormick Backus, all of Wilton; his father, John Backus of East Wilton; and blessed to be loved by three mothers, Brenda Toothaker Stinson and her husband, Owen, of Wilton, Patricia Fuller Starbird and her husband, Ed, of Raymond and Alaska and Jeannine Moore Backus of East Wilton; six siblings, Rhonda Backus Schanck and her husband, Rodney, of East Wilton, Shelly Backus Gervais and her husband, Stephen, of East Wilton, Julie Backus Tinsman and her husband, Lonnie, of Oakland, Angela Wedge and her husband, Steve, of Warren Sergeant First Class Mathew Bickford and his wife, MiChel, of Ft. Campbell, Ky., and Erica Backus Patriquin and her husband, John, of New Gloucester; maternal grandmother, Helen Orff Toothaker of Wilton; nieces and nephews, Jordan, Jamie, Olivia, Tyler, Katelyn, Miranda, Justin, Noah, Riley, Sara, Jamie, Jessica, Tia, Jason, Thomas, Abigail, Zachary, Chelsea and Tyler; as well as many loved aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
He was predeceased by his maternal grandfather, Rudolph Toothaker; paternal grandparents, Wayne and Vestena Backus; mother-in-law, Noreen Pillsbury; father-in-law, John Pillsbury; and brother-in-law, John Pillsbury Jr.
Condolences and tributes may be shared on his memorial wall at www.wilesrc.com.