John Backer holds the record as the longest serving employee and volunteer in Church World Service history, totaling 61 years of service in its refugee and international leadership development programs.
Beginning in 1950 as a CWS volunteer, Backer would wait by the piers in New York City, helping new refugee arrivals from war-ravaged Europe reach their resettlement destinations in the United States.
Within a few years, he joined the CWS staff, and his involvement with CWS was interrupted only during his two years in the U.S. Army. Even then he figured out a way to keep working with CWS for part of the time that he was enlisted – helping Hungarian refugees being processed at New Jersey’s Camp Kilmer.
Backer returned to CWS full time as soon as he was discharged, and worked up until a few days before he died, in December 2011, following a heart attack at age 79.
On October 25, CWS will honor Backer’s extraordinary commitment with an award, to be conferred at a reception in New York City. The recipients will be immigrants, refugees, business people, elected officials, or other extraordinary individuals who, like Backer, have served as champions for the rights of these vulnerable communities.
For more information about the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read John Backer’s life story.
See a July 2011 interview with John Backer.