Henry R. 'Hank' Backman


WAKEFIELD, Mich. — The Wakefield News publisher emeritus Henry R. “Hank” Backman, 82, a longtime resident of Wakefield, died peacefully Friday, June 14, 2013, at his home, with his loving family by his side.

Hank was born on Aug. 4, 1930, in Ramsay, the son of Henry G. and Helia Hilda (Hakala) Backman.  He attended Ramsay School and graduated from Wakefield High School in 1949.  Hank also attended the University of Wichita, Wichita, Kan .; the College of San Mateo, San Mateo, Calif .; and the University of San Francisco.

On June 15, 1949, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.  Hank was honorably discharged on Dec. 14, 1952, as an airman second class.

For a period of time, he was a police officer in Wichita, and later worked for Boeing Aircraft.

Hank moved to Colorado and was employed by Sinclair Oil Corp.  It was in Denver, he met a California girl, Suzanne La Berge, who was a college student.

On April 16, 1961, Hank married Suzanne in Redwood City, Calif.  They made their home in Redwood City, and were blessed with two sons.  While in California, he worked for various printing companies.

In 1972, the family moved to Michigan and settled in Wakefield.  Hank worked for a short time at Connor Forest Industries and the Bessemer Plywood Corp.  He then worked for the News Record in Ironwood for eight years.

On June 2, 1983, Hank and Suzanne purchased The Wakefield News from George Westlund.  For more than 23 years, the third owners ran the printing business that published a weekly newspaper.

On Oct. 31, 2006, after printing millions of pieces of paper and 1,216 issues of The Wakefield News, Hank and Suzanne sold their business to Andy and Sue Hill.

An involved community man, Hank served on the Wakefield City Council for eight years and as mayor.  He also served as president of the Wakefield Little League, was a faithful member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Ramsay and was a devoted Elder.

Hank is survived by his loving wife of 52 years, Suzanne; two sons, Kirk (Pam), Kimball, Wis., and Brent, Austin, Texas; two daughters by a previous marriage, Toni (Leon) Kempner, Portland, Ore., and Cindy Castillo, Vancouver, Wash .; seven grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; two sisters, Marlene Hongisto, Gladstone, and Lorraine (Ralph) Jurmu, Wakefield; numerous nieces and nephews; and a host of friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

A memorial visitation will be held Wednesday, June 19, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, E8223 Sanders Road. 

A memorial service will be held Thursday, June 20, at 11 a.m., preceded by visitation at 10 a.m., at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, with the Rev. Timothy J. Steckling officiating.

Following the service, an American flag presentation will be conducted by Jack Lillar, commander of the Wakefield Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9084.

Lunch will be served in the church fellowship hall following the military salute.

Lakeside Memorial Chapel in Wakefield is assisting the family.  Expressions of sympathy may be offered at lakesidememorialchapel.com.


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