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Leslie Merrill Eastman
July 17, 2020
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Leslie Merrill Eastman, son of Leslie Earl and Gertrude Estelle (Lalonde) Eastman was born 7 September 1940 in the Trull Hospital in Biddeford, Maine and passed away at Gosnell Hospice House in Scarborough, Maine 17 July 2020. Les graduated from the Old Orchard Beach High School in 1959 and University of Southern Maine with a BS in Geography and an MA in Maine Studies. While a student, he worked for Maine Audubon Society where he arranged and guided field trips. He went on to teach Maine History and Current Events at the Lewiston High School for 25 years a career that drew upon his love for Maine history and allowed him time off to track down rare plants. He was known for his innovative teaching style and was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for Newspapers in Education, and was Yearbook Teacher of the Year twice.
As a product of the meeting of three cultures of 17th century New England, English, French and Native American and a 10th generation Mainer, he spent his boyhood exploring the coastal marshes and swamps of Old Orchard Beach, collecting everything from salamanders to pitcher plants. Family weekends were spent with his parents who shared his interest in rocks, traveling Maine’s countryside in search of a variety of minerals. Les became a knowledgeable collector and the vast majority of his mineral collection was purchased by Harvard University.
According to Down East Magazine 1985, Les is considered “Maine’s premier rare plant detective who has discovered or relocated over 300 plant species in Maine and who is widely considered one of the most important botanists ever to work in Maine.” Les has, according to many of Maine’s leading botanists, “added more to our knowledge of the state’s rare plants than any other individual in this century.
Past president of the distinguished Josselyn Botanical Society, Les also served on the Rare and Endangered Plant Species Committee of the New England Botanical Club of Harvard University and was a an executive board member of the Maine Naturalist . He was the author of more than 100 journal articles and scientific reports on rare plants, including the Rhodora and Northeastern Naturalist and author of Rare Vascular Plants of Maine and co-authored The Flora of Oxford County with Christopher Campbell. In 1993 he received the Outstanding Botanist Award from The New England Wildflower Society for the discovery and documentation of Maine’s rarest plant species.
He married his childhood friend, Jo Ann Darling, in 1986 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Saco, Maine. They remodeled an 1875 farm house in Greene, Maine where they established extensive gardens.
In 2004 they moved to Lecanto, Florida where they were active with the Nature Coast Unitarian Universalists. They traveled to England, Scotland, and Wales, Trinidad, and the Yucatan, Mexico as well as exploring the biodiversity of Florida. In 2016 they returned to their home in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. A Private Family burial service will be held at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco. Arrangements are conducted by The Old Orchard Beach Funeral home 36 Portland Ave, Old Orchard Beach. Condolences may be placed at http://www.oobfh.com.