STRATFORD, Conn. – Terrance “Terry” Backer, a career Long Island Sound fisherman and veteran state lawmaker from Stratford who won national renown as the state’s first and only Soundkeeper, died Tuesday morning in Bridgeport Hospital.
He was 61.
Calling hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday Dec. 17, in Hoyt-Cognetta Funeral Home & Crematory, 5 E. Wall St., Norwalk. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18, directly at St. Matthew’s Church 216 Scribner Ave. Norwalk. Interment will be private.
Born Aug. 3, 1954 in Stamford, Backer was the son of a fisherman, the late Henry J. Backer, and Catherine Lagana Backer of Norwalk. He attended Norwalk public schools and later earned a license as a Merchant Marine officer from the U.S. Coast Guard. Backer worked with his father, Henry Backer, for decades, harvesting lobsters and shellfish in southwestern Long Island Sound.
Backer was the former chairman of the legislative Environment Committee, as well as the Energy & Technology Committee. He was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1992, representing the South End of Stratford, including the Lordship neighborhood where he lived. He won re-election in 2010, 2012 and 2014 while fighting a brain tumor. Backer was too ill to attend last week’s special session of the General Assembly.
He led the Soundkeeper Fund for 27 years, joining the environmental work of fellow activists including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior attorney and president of the board of Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit focused on grass-roots efforts to protect and enhance waterways around the world.
In addition to his mother, Backer is survived by two sons, Luke Backer of Stratford and Jacob Henry Backer of Bristol; a brother James J. Backer and wife Diana of Groton; two sisters, Kathleen A. Patchen and husband Richard of Weston, and Cheryl B. McNeil and her husband Kevin of Norwalk; the mother of his children, Mary McNeil Backer; his former wife and friend, Monica Anton Backer; and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. He was predeceased by a niece, Arian Rose Backer.