Susan “Susie” Backlund
KINGSFORD — Susan “Susie” Backlund, 68, of Kingsford passed away peacefully on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, at Evergreen Assisted Living Center. Her passing marked the end of a 15-year struggle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
Susie was born in Iron Mountain on Nov. 14, 1951, the daughter of Robert and Shirley (Johnson) Menghini. She graduated from Kingsford High School in 1969 and attended Central Michigan University and Northern Michigan University, earning a master’s degree.
She married Wayne Backlund on Dec. 28, 1974, at the St. Mary Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Kingsford.
She gave birth to her only child, Robert, on April 22, 1982. Susie was an elementary educator for over three decades, devoting her energy and expertise to the most vulnerable students. She spent the majority of her career in the Homer (Michigan) Community Schools, retiring in June of 2006. A former student summed up Susie’s professional, personal and pedagogical prowess the best:
“Mrs. Backlund has helped me with my disability and I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her assistance. She was my most influential teacher and my goal is to become a social worker where I can help kids the same way that Mrs. Backlund helped me … because if it wasn’t for her I would have failed at a lot of things.”
Susie lived life with passion, zest and a personality that was infectious. She loved her family and had an uncanny ability to humbly boast about them. She loved to shop and was known to travel far and wide in search of sales and antique treasures. Her laugh was contagious. She was creative and had a knack for seasonal decorating that could make Martha Stewart jealous. She was stubborn and one knew where she stood on an issue. She loved to ski.
Susie was a paragon for living life with gratitude, often reminding her family of how “lucky” they were. Manners mattered. “Please” and “thank you” were foundational to her vocabulary. Family consensus was that she might have been wrong once; however, this will need to be confirmed or debated with her at a later date. Even in the face of a terminal illness she demonstrated the utmost courage to live, love, laugh and navigate the unknown darkness with kindness and light.
Susie is survived by her husband, Wayne; a son, Robert Backlund and daughter-in-law, Meredith Niles, both of Lincoln, Vt.; two sisters, Joan (Larry) Swartout of Iron Mountain, and Kris Deckett of Tawas City, Mich.; a granddaughter, Suvi Backlund-Niles; a brother-in-law, Jim (Mary) Backlund; and six nephews, Tom Swartout, Andrew Swartout, Alex Swartout, David Deckett, Zach Backlund, and Max Backlund.
Along with her parents, Susie was preceded in death by her in-laws, Adolph “Pusty” and Rena Backlund.
A private memorial service will be held later this week. A public celebration of Susie’s life will take place in the summer of 2021, assuming that it can be done safely in light of Covid-19.
The Backlunds want to extend their deepest gratitude to family, friends and community members who helped them navigate the challenges of Alzheimer’s Disease. No gesture of support, help and kindness went unnoticed over the years. We especially want to extend our appreciation to our heroes and Susie’s “angels” at Evergreen Assisted Living Center for taking care of any and all of her needs day in and out over the last few years. Your tireless efforts helped provide solace for a family trying to manage complicated loss and grief.
In lieu of flowers, Susie’s family requests that you consider carrying out the following actions with her spirit and passion for life in mind:
— Being kinder than necessary to ALL — even if your political views differ (imagine that);
— A phone call to a family member or friend;
— Voting for elected leaders who support public schools, teachers and equitable education for all students, especially those with special needs;
— Reaching out to a family that is facing Alzheimer’s Disease or another neuro-degenerative disorder and asking not “if” they need help, but “how” you can help;
— A donation to the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org/gmc) in Susie’s honor.
Stories and memories of Susan “Susie” Backlund may be expressed online at www.ernashfuneralhomes.com.
The family has entrusted the Erickson-Rochon & Nash Funeral Home with the arrangements.