Pain endures for family of Henry


To the Editor:

An open letter to the members of the Edgartown Field Club and Boathouse: 

This is a photo of our son, Henry. This September, our family should have been eagerly looking forward to Henry starting kindergarten and turning 5 years old. Instead of celebrating his birthday, we will continue to mourn his death. Our son drowned in July 2021 in the Field Club’s pool. 

The anguish our family has experienced is impossible to communicate. We tried our best in this victim statement, prepared for and delivered in the Edgartown Courthouse on the day the board of the Field Club/Boathouse organization pleaded guilty to the crime of manslaughter, a felony. 

On the very same day that the club’s representatives admitted their organization’s guilt in criminal court, its leadership released a statement to all members calling Henry’s death an “accident.”

The word “accident” grossly misrepresents what happened: Manslaughter is defined in Massachusetts as an unlawful killing resulting from wanton or reckless conduct. Learning of that message by the club’s leadership added stinging insult to the irreparable injury already inflicted on our family. 

In your capacity as active members of the Field Club, we ask you to confront the terrible nature of Henry’s death, and wrestle with these questions: 

  • Do you believe that the Boathouse/Field Club organization needs to fundamentally change in response to our son’s death? If so, how? 
  • Have you noticed any substantial changes in operations implemented from last summer to this summer?
  • How did the club leadership’s statement after their guilty plea (linked above) sit with you and your community?
  • How are you, your friends, and your acquaintances grappling with this tragic crime that occurred in plain sight at your club? 

This summer will end soon. Our family’s grief in losing a beloved son, grandson, and big brother will not. Allowing this tragedy to fade from your community’s memory does a grave dishonor to Henry. We ask that you have the heart to imagine yourself in our shoes. 

We encourage you to discuss and reflect on Henry’s death — if only to ensure that your community never loses a child like this again. The Field Club is now on probation for five years. We ask that you help make sure that it complies with the terms of that probation. Very simply, if you see or learn of something dangerous or neglectful, please speak up, please say something.

If you’d like to share any thoughts or reflections with our family, you can send an email to this address:

Ellie and Stephen Backer
Henry’s parents