Orlin W. Backes

May 11, 1935-Nov. 30, 2017

Orlin Backes, 82, died

in his home Thursday,

November 30, 2017 sur-

rounded by his children

and grandchildren.

Orlin William Backes

was born on May 11,

1935, the fifth of six chil-

dren of Leonard P. Backes

and Irene (Keller) Backes.

Orlin was born on the

family farm northwest of

Glenburn, in Renville

County, North Dakota and

graduated from Glenburn

High School in 1953.

Although he wanted to

farm, at his mother’s in-

sistence, he started col-

lege that fall, attending

Minot State College. He

never looked back, often

stating that his college

education opened his

mind to a whole new

world. He was the first in

his family to attend col-

lege, and graduated with a

teaching degree in 1958.

At Minot State he met the

love of his life, and future

wife of 58 years, Millie

(Jensen) Backes. They

married on October 15,

1958 and eldest son, Brent

was born a year later.

After college, Orlin be-

gan teaching history and

science at Max High

School in Max, North

Dakota. After two years

in the classroom, Orlin

and Millie moved to

Grand Forks, North Dako-

ta and Orlin began law

school at the University of

North Dakota School of

Law. Second son, Jon,

was born his first year in

law school. He was

awarded the degree of

Juris Doctorate in 1963,

graduating third in his

class. He was inducted

into the Order of the Coif,

an honor society for the

top ten percent of law

school graduates. Follow-ing graduation, he joined

the law firm of McGee,

Van Sickle and Hankla in

Minot. He practiced with

the McGee firm for 48

years, working with

thousands of clients and

hundreds of lawyers over

the years. While in

Minot, his daughter, Mary

Beth, and youngest son

Paul were born.

Orlin was a proud

member of the legal pro-

fession. He viewed his

job as a lawyer to help his

clients achieve their goals

or solve their problems,

however they presented

themselves. He had an

innate ability to com-

municate with people

from all walks of life and

enjoyed communicating

with all on their terms.

While practicing law, he

served terms as president

of the Ward County Bar

Association and the State

Bar Association of North

Dakota. For 30 years he

was rated by his peers as

AV Preeminent, the

highest rating in legal

ability and ethical stan-

dards. He was recog-

nized as one of the “Best

Lawyers in America” by

Super Lawyers Publica-

tion. In 1995 Orlin re-

ceived the State Bar

Association’s highest

award, the Distinguished

Service Award for lifelong

service to the Bench Bar

and People of North Dako-


Orlin was a trial lawyer

at heart, presenting his

client’s cause to over 100

federal and state jury’s in

his career. He was admit-

ted as a Fellow of the

American College of Trial

Lawyers in 1986 serving

as State Chairman in 1994

and again in 2004. Orlin

was admitted to the

American Board of Trial

Advocates in 1989 and

served as state chair for

North Dakota, as well as a

term as National Director.

Through his membership

in those organizations, Or-

lin was privileged to parti-

cipate in presentations on

effective trial practice to

the Minister of Justice for

the Republic of China and

the University of Warsaw

in Poland.

Orlin’s three priorities

in life were Family, Faith

and Community and he

and Millie spent much

time visiting children and

grandchildren across the

country. They sought to

attend the important

events in their lives,

where ever they were

across the United States.

They traveled extensively,

visiting over 25 different

countries and all 50

states. Many hours were

spent discussing the

“great” and less great of

those trips. Orlin was

particularly proud of his

grandchildren. His

grandchildren in the

Minot area would often be

found at their home, hav-

ing dinner or just stop-

ping for a visit with

Grandpa. Those from out

of town made a special ef-

fort to visit North Dakota

in the summer, and Arizo-

na in the winter. Orlin

was a lifelong Catholic.

He and Millie were named

the North Dakota Knights

of Columbus Catholic

Family of the year in


Orlin was an active

member of the Minot

community. He truly be-

lieved that with hard

work, community in-

volvement and consensus

leadership, Minot could

be even greater than the

great place he knew it to

be. His community in-

volvement started with

service clubs, and pro-

gressed through

numerous volunteer com-

mittees, ultimately result-ing in a run for mayor.

He was elected Mayor of

Minot in 1994 and served

as Mayor until 1998. Dur-

ing that progression Orlin

served on numerous state

and local boards and com-

mittees including the fol-


Minot Area Develop-

ment Corporation, Direc-


Minot Chamber of Com-

merce, Past President

Minot State University

Board of Regents, Found-

ing Member and

Regent-Golden Award Re-


Minot State College

Alumni Association, Past


Bishop Ryan Catholic

School Board, Past


Bishop Ryan Catholic

School Board of Regents,

Founding Member and

“R” Award Recipient

Theodore Roosevelt

Medora Foundation,

Board of Trustees

North Dakota Com-

munity Foundation, Board

of Trustees

Task Force 96 Base Re-

tention Committee, Com-

mittee Member

Colin Brown Y’s Men’s

Club, Past President

Minot Lion’s Club, Past


Minot Aerie 2376

Fraternal Order of Eagles,

Past President

Our Lady of Grace Par-

ish Counsel, Past


ND Knights of

Columbus, State Advocate

Prairie Public Board of

Directors, Director

Minot “Lead” Commit-


Orlin served 12 years

on the North Dakota Real

Estate Commission, hav-

ing been appointed by

three North Dakota Gover-

nors, Art Link, Allen Ol-

son and George Sinner.

He served on the board of

directors of First Western

Bank for 40 plus years

and the board of directors

of Integrity Mutual Funds

for 20 plus years.

Developing more

economic opportunity for

young North Dakotans

was one of the goals that

fueled Orlin’s community

service. He served as one

of the initial board

members for the “Growing

North Dakota Program”,

which was tasked with

developing a statewide

economic development

program. The program

resulted in the organiza-

tion of the North Dakota

Future Fund, with Orlin

serving as its first chair.

Orlin was also a member

of the group that con-

ceived and organized

Minot’s Magic Fund, later

serving as its chairman.

Orlin was an eternal

and lifelong optimist. It

was rare to have a conver-sation with him in which

his positivity was not ap-

parent. It was even more

rare to walk away from a

conversation with Orlin

without “cracking a smile”

at least once in the

conversation. He was an

enthusiastic witness to

the experiences he lived.

Countries, cities and

places visited by Orlin

and Millie were often the

“best ever” the “most

beautiful” “fantastic” and

amazing”. He enjoyed

contemplating the issues

of the day and consider-

ing how a particular goal

or problem, whether local,

regional or national, could

be best achieved or

solved. He was con-

vinced that no matter the

issue, there was a positive

solution or outcome, and

moreover that the desired

outcome could be

achieved by less preoc-

cupation with the prob-

lem, more focus on the

solution and a good meas-

ure of “rolling up your

sleeves” and getting to

work. His advice and

counsel will truly be


Orlin is survived by:

his children Brent

(Melanie) Denver CO; Jon

(Karla) Minot; Mary Beth

(Paris) Brenno, Chandler

AZ; Paul (Jeannie) Ed-

wards CO; his sister

Estelle Hohman-Vatter; of

LaPine, OR and brother

Roger Backes; of Minot,

brother in law James

(Karen) Jensen; of Minot

Grandchildren: Berit

Backes, Austin, TX; Anika

Backes, New York NY; In-

grid Backes, Ft. Collins

CO; Christian Backes,

Denver CO; Alexandria

(Juan) Flores, Williston

ND; Katelyn (John)Denne,

Minot ND; Brieann

Backes, Bismarck ND;

Ashley (Aaron) Beck; Wil-

liam DeCoteau, Minot,

ND; Catherine Backes,

Jacob Backes, Rebecca

Backes, Edwards, CO;

Great Grandchildren:

Joseph Kniffin and Stella


Orlin was preceded in

death by: his wife, Millie,

his parents Leonard and

Irene Backes, his brothers

Richard Backes, Merle

(Bud) Backes, Harold


Mass of Christian Buri-

al: Thursday, December

7, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at

Our Lady of Grace Cathol-

ic Church, Minot.

Vigil Prayer Service:

Wednesday, December 6,

2017 at 8:00 p.m. at Our

Lady of Grace Catholic

Church, Minot.

Public Visitation:

Wednesday, December 6,

2017 from noon until 5:30

p.m. at Thompson-Larson

Funeral Home. The fami-

ly will be present at the

funeral home from noon

until 2:00 p.m.

Burial: Rosehill

Memorial Park, Minot.

Memorials preferred to

Bishop Ryan Catholic

School and Minot State