Mary Anne Backderf passed away from COVID-19 on Oct. 29. She was 91. Born Mary Anne Hamilton in Akron, she was the youngest of five children of Sam and Mary Hamilton. The family struggled through the Depression, moving often, until finally settling in house on Fess Ave., atop Sherbondy Hill. Mary Anne insists she was “painfully shy” as a girl, which brought chuckles of disbelief from those who knew her as an adult. She grew into a pretty and outgoing young woman. Her high school friends called her “Annie.” Her four brothers all went off to war, leaving “Sis” as the only child in the Hamilton house. “If you weren’t such a brat, I would’ve gone out of my mind with worry about the boys,” her mother told her. She was extroverted and kind, like her father, stubborn and protective of her family, like her mother. She attended Lincoln School and South High, where she played on the basketball team and majored in secretarial arts. She walked from South High to her first office job at the First National Tower, past bars full of cat-calling rubber workers. When she was a senior in 1948, she met Richard Backderf, a tall, thin chemistry major at Akron U. The flood of returning WW2 veterans snapped up all the co-eds and Richard couldn’t find dates. “He never would have bothered with me if there were any available college girls,” recalled Mary Anne. Their courtship began haltingly. Richard, exhausted from all-nighters in the chem lab, fell asleep on every movie date. They soon became an inseparable couple and married in 1951. Richard always playfully asserted he rescued Mary Anne from life as an old maid. After Richard earned his Master’s and PhD at Ohio State University, the couple returned to the Rubber City, where Richard became a research chemist with BF Goodrich. When they started a family, Richard convinced a reluctant Mary Anne to leave Akron for small-town Richfield, where they would reside for the next 56 years. Sons John and Eric arrived in short order, and Mary Anne concentrated on being a mom and housewife. She volunteered in many civic organizations and at the schools her sons attended. She worked part time as a secretary to earn a little “mad money,” and gabbed on the phone with her lifelong pal, Shirley, almost every day. She doted on her parents. She loved gardening, and could often be found in her flower beds, wearing her trademark floppy sun hat. She enjoyed playing cards with friends, browsing at antique shows, and long country drives. She always had a trashy romance novel handy. She knew Akron like the back of her hand, every street and shortcut. In retirement, she and Richard traveled around the country and spent weekends at the family cottage on the Portage Lakes. Richard passed away in 2011. He and Mary Anne were married for 60 years. She spent her final years in an assisted living home near Highland Square. She’ll be greatly missed.
Services in care of The Billow Funeral Homes and Crematory Fairlawn Chapel 85 N. Miller Road Akron, OH 44333.
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