Whitney H. Eastman was a member of the Friends Board of Directors from January 1961 through May 1968, after which he was an honorary director until May 1975. He joined the board when Dorothy Binder was President and was active through the fund raising and construction of the Martha Crone Shelter.
Mr. Eastman continued to attend the annual meetings of the Friends until his death. He passed away on December 3, 1979 at age 91.
Mr. Eastman was an avid birder. He was a contributing author to the book The Treasury of Birds, published in 1972. He was one of four persons who confirmed the sighting of a pair of rare Ivory Billed Woodpeckers in Florida in March of 1950. This is mentioned in several articles and books including “Ivory-billed Woodpecker Sightings and Evidence 1944-2003,” a compendium of information on the bird - part of Project Coyote; also in the book The Ghost Orchid Ghost and Other Tales from the Swamp published in Florida in 2007. He was instrumental in establishing a sanctuary for the pair of birds.
By 1953 his life list of species totaled 749, with years yet to go. The Eastman Nature Center at Elm Creek Park Reserve is named for him. The center is part of Three Rivers Park District, Hennepin County, Minnesota. Mr. Eastman was a fund-raiser for the 14,000 square-foot center.
He was born on April 24, 1888 in Fort Ann, New York. He and his wife Anna lived in a number of cities as he worked professionally in the vegetable oil processing industry beginning in 1911. He eventually became a vice president of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company and of General Mills. His last industry position was as a director of First Oceanic Corp, the largest stockholder of ADM. He published several books and articles about the Oil Processing Industry and in particular the book The History of the Linseed Oil Industry in the United States.
For a time the Eastman's lived in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin when he was the president of the William O. Goodrich Co., as associate organization of the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM). In 1929 they constructed a house there at 4716 N. Wilshire Rd. that is now on the historical walking tour the city. By 1940 they were in Minneapolis.
At the time of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker sighting, he was a vice president of General Mills. He was a member of many ornithological societies and was a life member of the Illinois Natural History Survey.
When Mr. Eastman arrived in Minneapolis it did not take him long to discover the Wildflower Garden as a great place for birding. He first shows up in Garden Curator Martha Crone's diary in 1941 when on May 25th she notes “Mr. Eastman of Archer Daniels in, also Dassett & others.” On May 28, 1942, a local birder, Mr. Milton Thompson of the Minneapolis Public Library's Science Museum, collected (i.e. "shot") a male Coopers Hawk in the Garden but not the female. Martha had asked him to come and get it as she was afraid it would kill to many songbirds.(1) On the 30th Martha noted Mr. Whitney Eastman left a card saying “they had collected the female hawk and found 2 eggs in the nest, thereby establishing an early record for the State.”
In 1943, again on May 30th, Martha noted in her Garden Log: “Many birds noted, also a most unusual find, a “western tanager” discovered by Mr. Whitney Eastman, south of upper gate just west of deep hole. We observed it a long while. It was traveling with a number of scarlet tanagers.”
Years later Mr. Eastman attended the 25th Annual Meeting of the Friends in 1977 and one of his recollections about the Garden was that find of the Western Tanager. He told the meeting:
“He believed he was alone in the Garden when he spotted a Western Tanager which had no business in this area. He looked around excitedly to fine someone to vouch for his identification and called to a man who appeared nearby --Western tanager! Western Tanager!!. The man disappeared hurriedly and Mr. Eastman didn’t know whether the man was an escapee from Stillwater [State Prison] or thought he was.”
Former Friends President Robert Dassett was a birder just like Eastman. Betty Dassett wrote this note about Eastman: “Bob liked to remember his friend Whitney Eastman, “a real bird man” and a great baseball fan during the Millers’ era. Whitney had his own version of a double-header, Robert recalled; he’d watch the first game, bike to the Garden to eat his sandwich and talk to Martha, and then bike back to see most of the second game.” Robert recalled doing just that with Eastman on a Memorial Day. [Fringed Gentian™ Vol. 19 No. 4, Oct. 1971]
Reference: Minutes of The Board of Directors and other documents of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.; Whitfish Bay Historical Group; books cited above; Illinois Natural History Survey.
(1) Information from Friends member J.S. Futcher, 1992.
Text by Gary Bebeau.