Leslie Eastman in a family photo

Leslie Eastman, a dedicated teacher at Lewiston High School and one of Maine’s leading botanists, died July 17. He was 80.

Mr. Eastman was past president of the distinguished Josselyn Botanical Society and authored more than 100 journal articles and scientific reports on rare plants.

He was remembered by loved ones and colleagues Thursday as a funny, intelligent and inquisitive man who lived life to its fullest.

Mr. Eastman grew up in Old Orchard Beach. He spent his early years exploring coastal marshes, swamps, brooks and streams. He collected everything from salamanders to pitcher plants. He also joined his father exploring places for unusual rocks and minerals.

His wife, Jo Ann Darling of Old Orchard Beach, said Thursday he was a self-taught botanist. One of his favorite places to explore was Flag Pond Road in Saco, an area rich in ecological resources, she said.

“He could read the landscape and tell, driving 30 mph, what plants were in there by the direction of the sun,” Darling said. “He could tell the different trees and rock formations. He was kind of a genius in that way.”

According to his obituary, Mr. Eastman authored more than 100 journal articles and scientific reports on rare plants in publications such as the Northeastern Naturalist. He was the author of “Rare Vascular Plants of Maine” and co-author of “The Flora of Oxford County,” with Christopher Campbell. In 1993, he was recognized by The New England Wildflower Society with its outstanding botanist award for his discovery and documentation of Maine’s rarest plant species.

Campbell, of Belfast, a professor emeritus of botany at the University of Maine, said Thursday he began collecting plants with Eastman in the early 1970s. Campbell said their book includes a list of 1,500 species of plants and their locations in Oxford County. Other species of plants have been found since then, he said.

“He had no formal training in plants,” Campbell said. “He never took a course. He was virtually blind in one eye. He would go through the woods and see a plant and know it was rare because he hadn’t seen it before. It would just jump out at him. He was excited when he found a rare plant. He would get really enthusiastic about it.”

Mr. Eastman was a well-rounded naturalist, who had a passion for collecting unusual rocks and minerals. For several years, he operated a mineral store from his home. Most of his mineral collection was purchased by Harvard University.

In the late 1970s and ’80s, Mr. Eastman did field work for the Maine Audubon Society through the critical areas program of the Maine Planning Office. He was tasked with finding locations of rare and endangered species and plants of conservation concern and critical importance in Maine.

Steven Foster of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, an author and specialist in medicinal and aromatic plants, said Eastman comes from a long tradition of amateur botanists who made significant contributions to the flora of Maine, and the Northeast in particular.

“He made significant contributions during a period of time when there were very few field botanists working in the state,” Foster said. “He had a knack for finding rare plants. We would go in the field together and he would see a particular plant. He would say, ‘Oh, if we found this plant here, I bet up ahead we’re going to find this other plant.’ Sure enough, one would find the species he predicted. He really knew his botany.”

Mr. Eastman taught history and current events at Lewiston High School for 25 years. His wife said he was a popular teacher and his classes filled quickly. She said he was a mentor to many of his students and knew them on a personal level.

“He had a very innovative teaching style,” she said. “He was very funny and very blunt with his students. He had a great rapport the kids. I think they knew he was truly interested in their lives.”

Mr. Eastman and his wife met in the first grade and reconnected later in life. She remembered the day they got into trouble for being late to school. She said he took her to a swamp.

“We were there looking for salamanders,” she recalled. “He was showing me where they were. Because he was inquisitive, he would find things out and want to share them with everybody. He was a natural teacher.”

Darling said they shared a great life together. She said they traveled extensively throughout the U.S., including to to New York, Florida, California, Arizona and Virginia. They also traveled to England, Scotland, Wales, Trinidad and the Yucatan.

“Our life was exciting,” Darling said. “We would say no one else would enjoy our trips. We peeled them like an onion. We were in the swamps, the woods, the mountains and museums. We did research in basements where they kept old records and genealogy.”

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