January 20, 1926 - November 22, 2020


A private Mass of Christian Burial will be held for Ethel L. Backes, age 94, of St. Cloud. Ethel passed away peacefully in her sleep on November 22, 2020 in her home. Her nephew Reverend Peter Kirchner will officiate. Burial will take place in Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud.

Ethel was born January 20, 1926 in St. Cloud to Louis and Anna (Tracy) Kost. She graduated from Cathedral High School in 1944 and went onto graduate from the St. Cloud School of Nursing in 1947 and extended her education at the University of Minnesota (1948), University of Hawaii (1950), St. Cloud State (1952-55), and University of Wisconsin (1990). She married Robert J. Backes, Sr on April 18, 1953 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in St. Cloud.

She worked as a Registered Nurse at the University of Minnesota, Miller Hospital from 1948-49, Northwest Airlines 1948, Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago 1949-50, American Factors Sugar plantation in Hawaii 1950, HC&S Sugar in Hawaii 1951, St. Cloud VA hospital 1952-53, St. Cloud Hospital 1955-1960, 1972-73, Good Shepherd Lutheran Home in Sauk Rapids, 1972-1997. She retired from nursing in 1997.

Ethel was also active in her community at St. Paul’s Parish where she served on the Parish Council, Funeral Dinner Committee, Christian Women and Prayer Group. She was an active member of the St. Cloud Hospital School of Nursing Alumni where she served as an officer and on the Board. She also was part of the funeral escort for fellow members.

Ethel is survived by her children Lynn Ann (Kevin Koshiol) Keller of Albuquerque, NM, Robert (Elizabeth) Backes, Jr. of Villard, Cheri (Tom Gieske) Backes of Melrose, JoAnn (Jim Rolfzen) Backes of Maple Grove, and Bryan (Toni) Backes of Sauk Rapids, her grandchildren Sarah, Philip, Kimberly, Jimmy, Seth, Nicole, John, Christina, Emma, Christopher, Allison, and Kelsey, her great grandchildren Oliver, Noah, Addy, Millie, Harvey, Greta, Micah, Annie, and Parker and sisters Mary Ann Hollenhorst of Seattle, WA and Janet Kost of Denver, Co.

Preceding Ethel in death were her parents, husband Robert (1983), and siblings Fr. Harold Kost, Helen Kirchner, Rita Burger, Kathleen Hardwig, and Jimmy Kost.

Ethel’s unconditional love of and pride in her family was demonstrated in her daily prayers for the family and her attending all the events, games, concerts, shows and celebrations of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. When she couldn’t attend, she found a radio station so she could listen. Known as ‘Grandma Oko’ she passes on her deep faith and her “Irish humor” and optimistic outlook on life.

Ethel was also a trusted/loyal aunt and friend. For over 60 years she looked forward to her monthly ‘bridge club’ with Rosie, Bevie, Geri, Nita and others! For her extended family she hosted Christmas annually as well as other family reunions. Ethel was a passionate traveler-across the United States as well as abroad. She also loved spending time at her lake place ‘the Backes Island' on the Sauk River Chain of Lakes. She so enjoyed her long pontoon rides on nice summer days-and would always proclaim “this is my heaven on earth!”

Due to the pandemic the family requests that no flowers be sent; memorials will be distributed to the charities and causes Ethel supported over her lifetime.