Calvin Arthur Backus, a retired stationary engineer and volunteer in veterans' affairs, died Thursday of kidney failure at Knollwood Manor in Millersville. He was 70.
A longtime resident of Odenton, Mr. Backus retired in 1988 as a power engineer for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. He worked at all the county's public schools during his 23 years of service, said his daughter, Margaret Bovat of Severn.
He was a former president of the Maryland Chapter No. 14 of the National Association of Power Engineers.
Mr. Backus served with the Army in Italy, France, Belgium and North Africa in World War II. Wounded in the knee and hand, he received a Purple Heart. He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a past commander of Post 8097 in Jessup and of District No. 6 in Maryland, a life member of the Military Order of the Cooties, an honor degree of the VFW, and grand commander of the Maryland Cooties.
He also belonged to the American Legion Post in Glen Burnie and often volunteered for that group at the Fort Howard veterans hospital and the old veterans hospital at Loch Raven.
In his spare time, he entertained children by playing Santa Claus and often walked in parades as a clown.
Because of his size and cheery disposition, Mr. Backus was a natural to play Santa Claus and a clown. "When he was younger, he was heavy, very heavy," said Mrs. Bovat. "And he just loved children and people in general."
Most of his performances as Santa Claus were in the county's elementary schools. He played a clown in parades, joining the procession for holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. He last performed about 10 years ago.
He also was a member of the O'Malley Senior Center and enjoyed bingo and ceramics.
He was born in Chicago, but had lived in the Baltimore area for most of the time since World War II. He met his wife of 47 years while serving at Fort Meade.
After the war, he worked 14 years as a meat-cutter for the Armour company in Baltimore. The plant went out of business in the early 1960s, and Mr. Backus eventually became an engineer with the school system.
Services will be at 10 a.m. today at the Hardesty Funeral Home in Gambrills. He will be buried in the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.
In addition to his daughter, he is also survived by his wife, the former Margaret Merker; another daughter, Nancy Miller of Arbutus; a sister, Shirley Wolkotte of Bowling Brook, Ill.; three brothers, Edward Backus of Waldoboro, Maine, Lloyd Backus of Lancaster, Calif., and William Tyma of DeKalb, Ill.; and three grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Maryland Kidney Foundation or the Maryland Diabetes Association.