Ralph W. Backa
GREAT FALLS, MT - Ralph W. Backa was born on November 6, 1927, at Deaconess Hospital (now Columbus). He passed away July 6, 2013, at Benefis Senior Center with his wife, Joyce, of nearly 60 years holding his hand. During those 85+ years he led a full, interesting life.
Services are 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 11, at Croxford Funeral Home. Burial with military honors will be in the Highland Cemetery military section.
His dad tried farming during the hard times and went to construction and mining leading to attendance at many schools. Ralph started school in Geyser while living with grandparents. Other schools followed: Wheeler, Yellowstone Park, Glacier Park, Butte, where he graduated from the eighth grade. Four years of high school in Neihart where he graduated as Valedictorian of his class of seven.
After three years of work, he decided there had to be something better so he enrolled at Montana State University, now U of M. He majored in education and enrolled as an Air Force ROTC candidate, graduating in 1953. During the senior year, he was square dancing as well as calling square dances and this was how he and Joyce met! They were married in October while Ralph was using his degree to teach school in Wilsall.
He became active in the Air Force in June of '54 reporting to Lackland AFB, TX for induction and then school at a base in Denver. Future home bases included Lincoln, NE; more schooling in Denver and Indian Head, Maryland; Thule, Greenland, Springfield, Massachusetts; a base near Oxford, England; Kincheloe AFB in upper Michigan; two tours at Barksdale AFB, LA with a one year tour at U-Tapao Airfield, Thailand. During this 22 year career he served in Strategic Air Command, specifically in Munitions from loading officer to Squadron Commander, Weapons Inspector and retired as Director of Munitions, HQ2nd Air Force. His duties were recognized as he earned a Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, a Bronze Star and wore a Master Munitions Badge. He was very proud of his Air Force Career. During retirement, two of his past commanders told us he was the best inspector they had ever had.
Following retirement, Ralph had his own Home Repair business; kept very busy and had to say "no" to jobs so he could come to Montana to hunt and fish. He made the trip for many years before actually moving to Craig. He and Joyce also worked as tellers at several horse race tracks in the south, Hot Springs, Arkansas, in Oklahoma and for several years during the Kentucky Derby at Church Hill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Being part time work, they enjoyed travel, visiting friends, playing cards, Ralph was a "champ" at many games. He became a "farmer" when he moved to Montana in '91. Dahlias became a favorite of his and he raised many of them along with roses, glads, and vegetables; especially potatoes. He enjoyed giving talks to garden clubs about the raising of his dahlias. Favorite activities were fishing and hunting and many, many meals at his home were made up of wild game as well as produce from his garden. He became an avid Grizzly fan, shot the cannon at games for many years; only missed three home games since 1996 and traveled to many our of state games, including Championships. Look at his car!
The family included son Curt (Lynn), a Sports writer at the Tribune who began the bowling column. He fought cancer but lost in July of 2011. Phyllis (Jim) is a retired teacher in Bossier City. She works as a representative of Graduate Sales, Inc.; still working with young people. Richard is a Senior Project Executive with a concrete contractor in the Tampa, Fl. area.
Other family members include a nephew and niece, Kevin Schmid (Debbie) and Holley and Tanner (Rachelle) of Great Falls, Karen Schmid Rider (Ken) Kyle and Kris of Colorado Springs, CO.
Preceding him were parents, Charles and Lempi Backa, son Curt; sister and brother-in-law Darlene and Ron Schmid.
Memorials may be made to according to the donor's choice.
Croxford Funeral Home - Grat Falls, MT - (406) 453-0315
Published in Shreveport Times on July 12, 2013