After ninety-nine years and two months of a full and blessed life, Ella Eugenia (Jean) England Backstrom passed away peacefully after a short illness in Wilmington, NC on Friday, September 22, 2023.
There will be a memorial service for Jean at 1:00 PM Saturday, October 7, 2023, at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Wilmington, NC with visitation for family and friends immediately following in the Gathering Hall. A private burial service and celebration of life with family and friends will be held at a later date in Clarksdale, MS, Jean’s home for 82 years.
Jean was born in Clarksdale on July 21, 1924, to Leola McMillan England and Oscar Lee England, both of whom predeceased her. Jean was also preceded in death by her husband of 55 years, William Magruder (Bill) Backstrom, Sr.; her granddaughter, Word Guild Taylor Backstrom; her sisters – Helen Walters, Dorothy Sloan, Martha Fagin, Lucille England, Mary Braswell, and Alice Baker; and her brothers – Lynn England and Gilbert McMillan England.
Jean is survived by her brother, Trent England (Ann), of Palm Bay, FL; her daughter, Lucy Jean Backstrom Frankel (Lawrence) of Wilmington, NC; her sons, William Magruder Backstrom, Jr. (Word) of New Orleans, LA, and Charles Brown Backstrom (Mignon) of Owensboro, KY.; her grandchildren – Charles Brown Backstrom, Jr. (Maddie) of Waco TX, Bronwyn England Backstrom Allen (Mark) of New Orleans LA, Kari Clark Backstrom Clary (Logan) of Owensboro, KY and Zachary King Backstrom of Washington, DC. Jean also is survived by six great grandchildren – Lillian Parker Clary, Jayde Taylor Clary, Stella Jean Clary, Bellamy Brown Backstrom, Taylor Christine Allen, Jeb Tyler Backstrom, Mark Robert Allen, Jr., Jameson Ray Clary, and William Allen (to be born in early 2024) along with many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.
Jean graduated from Clarksdale High School and immediately began working as a bookkeeper in Clarksdale, where she met her husband, Bill. Jean and Bill were married on June 21, 1950, at Clarksdale Baptist Church where she spent her early years. After starting their family, Jean set out to spread her love, kindness, faith, food, and fun with a broad group of friends and family. She was well-known and respected as a wedding planner throughout the Mississippi Delta and as the consummate hostess at many events for family and friends. She also had an eye for interior design, which led her to work in gift shops in Clarksdale and Fairhope, AL.
Jean’s attention to detail was legendary in all aspects – entertaining, culinary endeavors and weddings, just to name a few. That attention to detail no doubt was reflected in her work as a bookkeeper, but also as an assistant to the Guidance Counselor at Clarksdale High School after Jean and Bill became “empty nesters.”
Jean and Bill were charter members of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Clarksdale, where she participated in many Sunday School classes and small groups. She also found time to play bridge with her beloved “bridge group” and was immensely proud of her Mississippi Delta roots. Some of Jean’s friends in Wilmington referred to her as the Mississippi Queen, a fitting name for such a wonderful person.
After her husband’s death in 2005, Jean moved to Savannah, GA in 2006 to be close to her daughter and son-in-law, Lucy and Larry Frankel. She lived in Savannah until 2008 when Larry’s work took them to Wilmington, NC. With both of Jean’s relocations, her personality led her to adapt and flourish beautifully, making many new friends in each new environment, while staying close to her friends in Clarksdale. Since arriving in Wilmington, Jean has been an active member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. Jean was well-known at Wesley for her artwork, decorations and entertaining. She was active in two United Methodist Women (UMW) circles and participated in many church events, including designing, and painting beautiful gifts for the annual UMW Church bazaar. Jean constantly had multiple art projects in the works even in the last days of her life. Family and friends across the country cherish Jean’s artwork.
Jean lived independently until a year into the pandemic, when Lucy and Larry graciously and lovingly welcomed her into their home. Jean and Larry spent many hours in deep conversations (maybe a debate here and there) over a wide range of old and new topics. This kept Jean’s mind as sharp as a well-cut suit. Larry, a recognized physician, provided the kind of care that only a loving son-in-law can give. But, if there is an award for the best caregiver in the universe, it easily goes to Lucy. With her medical background, love, kindness, and diligence, and only with the care a loving and devoted daughter can give, Lucy provided skilled care for Jean for the 30 months she lived in Lucy and Larry’s home. Our entire family is eternally grateful to Lucy and Larry for giving our beloved mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, and friend the best care anyone could wish for.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be directed to Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church at https://welcometowesley.com/, the Word Guild Taylor Backstrom Memorial Scholarship Fund at New Heights Therapy Center at https://www.newheightstherapy.org/ or the charity of choice.
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Wilmington Funeral & Cremation 1535 S. 41st Street, Wilmington, NC 28403 910-791-9099.