Cover photo for Erma M. Backenstose's Obituary
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Erma M. Backenstose

December 10, 1929 — September 1, 2021

Erma M. Backenstose

Erma Marie Backenstose passed away at The Brook surrounded by her family on Wednesday, September 1, 2021.  She was 91.

Erma was born in East Detroit on December 10, 1929 to Edward and Irene (Hildenbrand) Luscomb.  She grew up in St. Claire Shores, Michigan where she attended primary school, and Romeo Michigan where she graduated high school in 1947.  She attended Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, and studied to be a school teacher.  It was 1947 when she met her husband, Gerald (Jerry) Backenstose, from Gaylord.  They married in 1949, lived in Romeo and raised 3 amazing children, Cyndi, Jim, and Penny.  She was a homemaker, PTA President, and member of the Sisson Suzie’s Home Extension Club.

Summer vacations and hunting trips would bring the family to Otsego County, and in 1970, the family moved permanently to Gaylord.  In 1971 Erma began working in the County Treasurer’s office and in 1980; she ran and won the Otsego County Treasurer’s seat.  Erma held the position for 33 years until she retired with plans to travel to Florida and Tennessee to visit her children and grandchildren.  However, after only a year of retirement, she felt her work in the community was not complete, and ran and won the County Commissioner’s seat for Otsego Lake Township.

Erma loved Otsego County and committed herself to community service.  Being aware that Gaylord was an aging community, Erma was a strong proponent of implementing initiatives to assist seniors in their daily lives.  From supporting parks and bike paths, to making those heavy winter doors easier to open, she fought to make Otsego County a place for residents to not just live, but thrive.  She was an active member of the Otsego County Library board, and would often win intense arguments to support their efforts. Erma was a Charter and active member of the Zonta service organization as well as serving as the club’s President.  In 2005, she was awarded the “Golden Hug Award” for her commitment to service and volunteering.  She was awarded the “Lifetime Princess of the Purse for Outstanding and Dedicated Service” by the Michigan Association of County Treasurers, recognized for commitment and dedication to the Otsego County Republican Party for her years of service, as well as having December 30, 2003 declared as “Erma Backenstose Day” in Otsego County by the Board of Commissioners due to her endless contributions and impacts to the community.

Her daily calendars were filled with meetings and community events; however her true joy was spending time with her children and grandchildren.  Whether it was taking care of them after surgeries, or attending hockey games and dance recitals, Erma was always there with her love and support.  She loved traveling with her daughters, watching game shows with her son, and “golfing” with her daughter-in-law.  She loved music and food, and always looked forward to her weekly lunches with her friends and salad lunches at the Congregational Church.  She loved cooking and would often experiment with recipes after watching her cooking shows and adding her special touches. She called or Face timed her granddaughter every Saturday where she provided detailed updates on what was happening in Otsego County.  She loved watching tennis and only stopped watching when she could no longer see the ball cross the court.  She lived independently in the home her husband built for her until May of 2021.

While Erma’s passing leaves a hole in our hearts, her legacy lives on in her work and her family.  She is survived by her children, Cynthia Fettig (w) of Jackson, TN and Johannesburg, MI, Jim (Mary) of Gaylord, and Penny Wahlberg (Craig) of Palm City, FL and Brewster, MA, as well as her grandchildren, Tracy Fettig of Murfreesboro, TN, TJ Fettig (Danuzia) of Chattanooga, TN, and James Backenstose of Las Vegas, NV.

Because of her love of the snow, a Celebration of Life will be held this winter in December.  In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests donations to be sent to Otsego County Library, the Otsego County Animal Shelter, Zonta, or the Commission on Aging; all organizations that were close to her heart.

Arrangements are by Gaylord Community Funeral Home & Cremation Service.  Please share your memories and personal messages with the family at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Erma M. Backenstose, please visit our flower store.


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