Pittsburgh: 412-787-1800 | Peters Township: 724-260-5546

Dencil Keith Backus

  • On July 25, 2023

Dencil Keith Backus of McDonald, Pennsylvania, beloved husband of Patricia Backus, died July 22nd, 2023 after a long illness.

Born July 20, 1946 in Richwood, West Virginia son of the late Blume Field and Macel Hughes Backus of Mount Nebo, West Virginia. He is survived by sisters Sherri Roop (Larry) and Myra (Stacey) Houser.

Father of Shane (Deeann) Backus and Shanita (Gary) Wine, and stepfather of Michele Rusen (Walt Auvil), Karen Rusen (Mychael Morohovich) and Laura Seidler (Brian).

Grandfather of Emily and Evan Backus; Reilee, Jaron, and Laini Wine; Kirk Auvil; Perry and Simon Rusen-Morohovich; Natalie (Dev) Kumar and Alexis (Tyler) Prather; and Carissa Massey (Jason Hartz).

Dencil married Pat on July 21, 1990. They celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary on July 21, 2023.

Dencil was referred to by his stepchildren and grandchildren as “Peepaw.” He enjoyed watching them grow and learn on the property he and Pat shared in the Pennsylvania countryside of Washington County.

Dencil retired from California University of Pennsylvania, Professor Emeritus, where he served as a tenured Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies. His decades as a college professor followed his start as a public-school teacher in Wood County, West Virginia.

Dencil had wide-ranging interests which he loved to share with family and friends. A voracious and perceptive reader, he and Pat particularly enjoyed their twenty years with friends in the “Book Worms” group. He also loved politics and was a life-long proud liberal and humanist.

Dencil loved theater and the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Canada was a favorite. Many happy journeys to “the Shaw” was one highlight of a life well lived.

At Dencil’s request, there will be no services. A private family interment will be arranged later.

Leave a Condolence

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Steven Tuell
Dencil was my coach in high school forensics, and taught me skills in speech and communication I still use every day. But he was also a model for me in my own teaching, showing me how to be at once caring and insistent upon excellence: Dencil once gave me a D on a book report I had just mailed in--after that, I knew I had to do not "just enough," but my best! May light perpetual shine upon him, and may God surround and uphold Pat, Shelly, Walt, and your whole family with peace and strength.
Cindy Demel
Dear Pat, I am so sorry to hear this news, I always felt a special closeness to both you and Dencil. He was such a wonderful person. My thoughts and prayers go out to you. I’ve been wanting to get a hold of you. But I only have Dencil’s phone number. Please call me when you can. I just feel so sad and I would love to talk to you. Love, Cindy ♥️
David Smith
I cannot begin to put into words the tremendously positive influence Dencil Backus was in my life. I met him at scheduling my first semester at Cal. I had missed orientation and was attempting to find my way at class scheduling. He must have been able to see it, and he approached me with kindness, but also had that ability to see through any facade. We immediately hit it off. I was a communication major, and learned so much in his classes and our chats in his office, smelling of pipe smoke. He taught me to think, write, and speak logically and with purpose. After Cal U, I went on to law school and I've enjoyed a near 20 years of practice so far. I owe so much to his ability to spot a student in need of guidance, and his expertise in providing it. My most sincere condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, and fellow mentees.