Elliott B. Prillig
1940 - 2013

This is a tribute story for my life-long friend, Elliott B. Prillig.  I’m Stephen E. Backhus, originally of Waterbury, Connecticut.  Elliott and I met in 1951.  We both attended Kingsbury Elementary School in Waterbury.  We walked to school each day and soon discovered that we lived around the corner from one another, he on Kenilworth St., & I on Willow St.

Quickly, it became apparent we had similar interests.  We liked guns, science, and were both baseball fans.  He liked the Yankees, and I, the Brooklyn Dodgers (at least we won once!).

We grew together as friends all through school, spending lazy summers in Waterbury with our friends, Al Siller & Jimmy Slavin, until college time came.  Elliott was off to UConn to study Pharmacy.  I was at University of Hartford studying Mathematics at night.

By 1963, Elliott had to take a Pharmacy internship in Hartford (at the Israel Pharmacy, I think), and I was working full time at PLAX Corporation in Hartford, still attending UH at night.  So, for that one school year, we roomed together on Farmington Ave in Hartford.  I learned about carminatives and chloral hydrate from Elliott, and he explained the intricate art of reading a doctor’s tortured prescription hand-writing.

After that, Elliott was off to Chicago to work for Abbott Labs as a pharmaceutical engineer.  Once I had graduated UH in 1967, PLAX sent me on the road – to Chicago!  So I got to visit Elliott there.

He cooked me a gourmet meal one night, and we ate sushi at a posh Japanese restaurant on Michigan Ave. the next.  We agreed about most things – except for what type of stock was best for a Marlin 39 (I liked the straight stock, he the full curved one).

As life would have it, I left the East for California in 1968, only to discover, in the 1970’s, that Elliott was there, too!  We got to visit occasionally while he was in Sunnyvale, and even when he moved to Mission Viejo, where we drove to the 7-11 that was on his street corner – "No one in Southern California walks when they can drive!", he exclaimed.

Despite the distances, we always kept in contact, except when he was running around the world building new pharmaceutical plants in places like China, the Philippines, and elsewhere!

He also had time to come up with an idea for preserving palm trees, so they were in perpetual suspended animation.  They looked and were real; they just didn’t grow, die, or need maintenance.  I think that John Wayne Airport in Anaheim still sports Elliott’s preserved trees!

In the early 1980’s he moved on to South Carolina, working for a pharmaceutical company there – I think he built a pharmaceutical plant in Puerto Rico that time.  It was then he told me he had met a girl named Juanita.

Little did I know that some very sad circumstances would bring us all together back in Waterbury.  It was 1984 now and I was a long-tenured Math & Science teacher in California.  But my parents still lived there on Willow St. in Waterbury, so I came back to see them often.

This time, it was a Saturday in July and I had just arrived in town.  I enjoyed taking the CR&L bus from downtown to Overlook, as we had as youths attending Crosby High School.  As I walked toward Elliott’s house, I thought about stopping by.  Just then, Judy, Elliott’s sister, came out the front door, saw me, and said, "Hi, Steve.  Thank you for coming."  This seemed a little odd until I learned what had just happened.  There had been a horrible car accident a short time earlier that day, and Hilda, their mother had succumbed to her injuries.

Elliott and his girlfriend, Juanita, were driving up from South Carolina, and would be there in a couple of hours.   Elliott soon arrived with Juanita, and we all sat around their family dining room table exchanging stories of our youth in Waterbury.

Elliott announced that he and I had only one major disagreement in life – and I finished his statement – that was the type of stock a Marlin 39 should have.

Judy, Juanita, and Judy’s husband Joe, marveled at the degree to which Elliott and I knew each other.  Everyone was astonished that this major coincidence had occurred at such a tragic time.  I was able to attend Hilda’s services at the Beth El Synagogue, and be present at her internment.

I guess God knows the timing of things and sometimes gives us the opportunity to be there for our friends.  We kept in touch more often after that.

By 1998, my parents had died, and my younger brother, Louis, unexpectedly passed away.  I invited Elliott to become a founding director of the Backhus Foundation, a non-profit entity to support the arts, education, and history.  He enthusiastically agreed and served as a Director until health issues caused his retirement in 2005.

By then he lived in Parsippany, NJ, and he and Juanita, after 17 years, had gone their separate ways.  We talked by phone, wrote a few times a year, and discussed his possible retirement to Florida.

I called him last summer to stay in touch and he told me about the infamous gopher problem he’d had.  We enjoyed greatly what turned out to be our last conversation.

I got a Christmas card from Elliott postmarked Dec. 8, 2012, and sent him mine on December 16th.  I don’t know if he ever saw it.  He entered the hospital on Dec 21st.

I hope this note brings back some good memories for family and friends who survive.  I remain devastated by this untimely loss of my oldest friend.

Thank you to Mark Gardella for contacting me about Elliott’s hospital stay.  My deepest sympathy to Judy, Mark, & all those who have been saddened by this loss.

Farewell my friend.  Rest in peace.

  January 25, 2013

In memory of


PARSIPPANY, NJ. - Elliott B. Prillig, 72, of Parsippany, NJ, passed away Saturday, January 12, 2013, at Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ.

Mr. Prillig was born and raised in Waterbury, CT.  He graduated from Crosby High School in 1958 and lived in the Overlook neighborhood of Waterbury until earning a B.S. in Pharmacy from the University of Connecticut at Storrs in 1962.

Growing up, Elliott was a member of Beth El Synagogue of Waterbury.

Elliott became a successful executive in the pharmaceutical industry that afforded him the opportunity to meet and touch the lives of many around the world and make important lifesaving contributions to healthcare practice today.

Elliott lived an active and adventurous life.  He was an avid outdoorsman, enjoyed taking care of his English Springer Spaniels and his yearly excursion to his beloved Hawaii.  He will be remembered for his quick wit, gourmet cooking skills and his willingness to always lend a helping hand.  All will remember him fondly.

He is survived by his friend and former wife Juanita Billingsley, sister Judith Israel of East Granby, CT, nieces Deborah Micheller of Avon, CT, and Shel Peters of Enfield.  Elliott is predeceased by his parents Samuel Rodney Prillig and Hilda (Bessoff) Prillig.