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BACKUS CHARLES R. BACKUS 1941 - 2014 Charles Roblin Backus, 72, died on July 12, 2014 in hospice care at home in Warrenton, VA. The cause of death was respiratory failure. He was born in Washington, DC, on August 21, 1941, to Gordon Tuthill Backus, Jr. and Charlotte Lydia Tilley Back-us. He graduated from Montgomery Blair High School in Sil-ver Spring, MD, and from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, MD, where he was a math major. He served as a teacher in the Peace Corps from 1964-66 in Malawi. He sailed out of Annapolis as a young adult. Later he was a liveaboard for several years in Dartmouth, England and then in Spain. He was aboard an old wooden sailboat with kerosene run-ning lights. He worked for the Brookings Institute in between his sailing trips. For 23 years, until his retirement in 2009, he worked for NASA, first at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and then at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Over the years he worked on the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (CoBE) to study the light left over from the Big Bang, on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI, later renamed High Resolution Microwave Survey, or HRMS), on processing radio data from cold molecular clouds, on techniques for improving resolution of astronomical images, on the Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO), and on various other projects, all on the cutting edge of science. In his leisure time, Charley enjoyed playing backgammon, bridge, chess and go. He got real satisfaction from doing woodworking in his home shop. He loved cats. He was predeceased by his birth parents and his stepmother, Stevie Lincoln, and by his younger brother, Sam Backus. He is survived by his wife, Susan Weiberg Backus, of Warrenton, VA. The couple would have celebrated their 22nd anniversary November 27. He is also survived by his brother, Andrew C. Backus (Chris Lilly Backus), of Bellingham, WA; his sister, Leslie Claire Backus (Greg Cassidy), of Silver Spring, MD; his nephew and niece, Stephen and Gannett Cassidy, and a stepbrother, John Harlow Lincoln, of Atlanta; three stepsons Bill, Jeff (Sandra) and Scot Pfaff and six step-grandchildren: Brady, Alec, Mitchell, Jake, Madison and Alexandra Pfaff. There will be a memorial service for Charley on September 7 at 2 p.m. at the church of the Bull Run Unitarian Universalists, 9350 Main St., Manassas, VA 20110. The service will be followed by a celebration of life at Charley's and Susan's home . In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations go to "The Hopkins Fund" to support scholarships. Mail your check to: Johns Hopkins University, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, 3400 N. Charles St., Wyman Park Bldg., Suite 500W, Baltimore, MD 21218-2685. Or, go to: to make a donation online.

Published in The Washington Post on July 23, 2014
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