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Government

Conn. State Rep. Terry Backer, The 'Soundkeeper,' Dies At 61

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Connecticut State Representative Terry Backer has died. He was serving his twelfth term as a Democrat from Stratford. In addition to serving in the House for 20 years, Backer was known as the Soundkeeper.

Backer was an oysterman before he founded an organization called Soundkeeper in 1987—it’s dedicated to preserving the environment of Long Island Sound through activism and advocacy. And he kept the image of an oysterman, wearing a fisherman’s cap and old jeans as he walked the floors of the Capitol.

"Well, you know, Terry was always himself, 100 percent," said Curt Johnson, director of the environmental group Save the Sound. He said Backer was a perfect spokesman for the Long Island Sound.

"He was a big burly guy with a deep voice. He sort of looked the part of somebody who walked right off of MGM as an oysterman — you know, these great big forearms, huge shoulders — but it was his passion that set Terry apart," he said. "He believed so much in restoring the sound."

Backer led efforts to reduce storm water runoff and keep sewage out of the Sound. Most recently, he worked on legislation to phase out the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products. Those beads sometimes end up in Long Island Sound, damaging the ecosystem, and winding up in seafood.

In June, Backer spent the night at the capitol—despite his illness—and slept on the couch in state house speaker Brendan Sharkey’s office to help pass the state’s two-year budget. Backer died late Monday night of brain cancer. He was 61 years old.

Governor Dannel Malloy ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff in his honor.