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Backus remembered at IWU

Friends and family members gathered in the Globe Theatre Monday, Jan. 23 to commemorate the life of Chris Backus.

The 22-year-old Indiana Wesleyan University student was one of four passengers who died in a plane crash near Crystal Lake, Ill., Nov. 26, 2011.

Dr. Jack Brady, assistant professor of criminal justice at IWU, opened the service. Brady was Backus’ academic adviser. The memorial service, he said, provided a chance to “honor Chris’ life and help everyone take the next step in the grief process.”

Members of the crowd cited Bible verses of consolation for the family and sang songs of praise led by Backus’ roommate Robby Ciganek.

The first speaker was Backus’ father Mike.

“It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life,” Mike Backus said. “I’ve faced people with guns, knives … and none of that is even close to what this is.”

“It’s also been one of the most amazing,” he said. “God has blessed my family. We’ve been blessed in so many ways through this [by] all the people that have reached out to me and to us.”

Friends and relatives shared their grief by offering up fond memories of Backus during the open-microphone time.

One of the family members who spoke was Backus’ uncle Tom Tio. Drawing on a poem by Linda Ellis, he described his nephew’s legacy:

“‘On a tombstone, there’s a date for when you were born and a date that you died. But what makes the difference is that dash in the middle and what you do with it,’” Tio said. “And Chris had a great dash.”

Tiah Andrews (sr), a close friend of Backus, agreed.

“Chris was such a lover of life,” Andrews said, “and I’m really grateful for his.”

Also in attendance were members of the Harris family. Ray Harris, 46, and his daughters Ramie, 21, and Shey, 20, perished alongside Backus in the plane crash. A benefit concert will be held Feb. 11 at the F. Ritchie Walton Performing Arts Center at Marion High School to celebrate the legacy of these victims and their contributions to the Marion community.

To send condolences to the Backus family, go online to

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Rilee Catalano (so) is a writer for The Sojourn. This is her second year at Indiana Wesleyan University and her second semester on staff. She is a business enthusiast and an avid writer who aspires to travel the world.

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