Don Backe

The Board of Directors for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB)

Don Backe, The Board of Directors for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB)The Board of Directors for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) is sad to announce the passing of their friend and the organization's founder, Don Backe.  He died on Friday, April 12 at Gilcrest Hospice in Columbia, Maryland after a long illness.    

Backe founded CRAB in 1991 after a serious auto accident caused him to lose the use of his legs. 

"The sailing community and CRAB family will forever feel the tremendous void Don Backe leaves," said Lance Hinrichs, president of the board of directors of CRAB and a long time CRAB sailor.  "Don was a genuinely selfless leader who combined his love of sailing and sense of public service to start CRAB more than twenty years ago.   His work has touched the lives of so many people in such a profound way."  

Born in South Dakota to Svere Moisted (Buck) Backe and Dorothy Andersen Backe, Don spent his early years in California where his father worked first with the U.S. Forest Service and then with the Immigration Service.

Middle School years were at an Army school in Munich, Germany, where his father was posted by the State Department after World War II.  It was in Germany that he learned to sail and ski.

Don attended Holderness School in Plymouth, New Hampshire and Yale University, with graduate study at Harvard and the University of New Hampshire.

He chose teaching as his career, starting at Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts, and moving up to Holderness, The Potomac School, the Unquowa School in Connecticut, Rutgers Preparatory School in New Jersey, and the Harley School in Rochester, New York where he was Head of the Lower School.  He was Headmaster of St. George's School in New Orleans, Louisana, and St. Andrews School in Edgewater, Maryland. 

He owned sailboats and enjoyed the thrill of competitive sailing thru his adult life until his auto accident in 1988.  Many months later, reluctantly but at the urging of a friend, Don went for his first sail since the accident. 

At the end of that day's sail, with tears of amazement and gratitude, he realized that his possibilities in life had not ended with the loss of his physical mobility.  He experienced what he'd always loved about sailing: the immense joy in the swell of the sea, the power of the wind in the sails and the potent sense of the tiller in his hand.  He resolved to move forward in life, not limited by his disability, to live to the fullest, and to share his passion while blazing a trail for others to follow. 

Beginning in 1989, Don competed in several Independence Cup National Sailors with Disabilities Championships, a few as skipper and once on the World Disabled Sailors championship crew.

He was a finalist in the 1995 Paralympic Trialsin Marblehead, Massachusetts.  Also in 1995, he was awarded U.S. Sailing's Marty Luray trophy for contributions to community sailing.   

Just this year, he was the winner of the 2012 U.S. Sailing and Old Pultney Maritime Heroes Award.

Don's legacy will live on in the lives of his five children, his seven grand children, and hundreds of former students, and, thru CRAB, in the pleasure and possibilities that sailing brings to persons with disabilities.

A Memorial Celebration will be held Sunday, June 23, 4:00 PM, at the Port AnnapolisMarina, 7074 Bembe Beach Road, Annapolis 21403.    If you think you'll attend, please let Lyn Backe know by replying to this email or to

The CRAB-Backe Fund has been established to continue Don's work.
Contributions can be made to the CRAB-Backe Fund and sent to:

612 Third Street, Suite 3b   
Annapolis, Maryland 21403



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