Thomas B. “Tom” Eastman, who with his wife was an advocate for the outdoors and was also an accomplished fly fisherman, bicyclist and photographer, died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease Sunday at Symphony Manor in Roland Park. The former Cockeysville resident was 89.
Thomas Barker Eastman, son of Dr. Nicholson Joseph Eastman, professor of obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and chief obstetrician at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Loretta Rutz Eastman, a registered nurse and homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Homeland.
From 1933 to 1935, he lived with his family in China, when his father was a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Beijing Union Medical College.
After graduating in 1951 from Gilman School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1955 from Yale University. He was married in 1956 to the former Alice June “Ajax” Waterman and the couple lived in Charlottesville while he attended the University of Virginia School of Law. He graduated in 1960.
The couple moved to Baltimore in 1960 when Mr. Eastman began practicing law at Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver. For the last decade until retiring in 2012, he had been in solo practice in Towson.
“I joined the firm in 1972 and being the rawboned person I was, Tom was my office neighbor and a great help to me,” said John A. Wolf, who is still practicing law with the firm, which is now Baker Donelson. “He was clearly from the old school as an advocacy lawyer. He was calm, quiet and effective.”
“Together my dad and mom Ajax raised four boys, taking us on backpacking trips in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and later New York’s Adirondacks, Washington State’s Cascades, Wyoming’s Wind River Range, and the Himalayas in Nepal,” wrote a son, Timothy W. Eastman of Idlewylde, in a biographical profile of his father. “His love of nature and physical exercise was the perfect [complement] to our mom’s love of nature and her tireless dedication to environmental causes.”
Mr. Eastman embraced his wife’s enthusiasm for hiking, kayaking and spending time outdoors, pursuits that “fueled and informed her environmental interest,” The Baltimore Sun observed after her death in 2018.
In 1970, Mrs. Eastman represented the Junior League and was a founding member of what became the first modern statewide environmental organization, which came to be known as the Maryland Conservation Council. A year later, she led the push for a returnable mandatory-deposit beverage container law, which went into effect in the early 1980s.
“Dad was a man of many interests, all passed on to us,” his son wrote. “After spending years hiking all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000–footers, he developed an interest in bike racing. He promptly went on to win state championships in his age group and rode his bike from Baltimore to New Haven for his 20th Yale reunion.”
Not content with hiking, Mr. Eastman took up rock climbing, an interest he shared with another son, Thomas B. “Todd” Eastman, who lives in Putney, Vermont. With another son, Andrew D. “Dusty” Eastman of Centreville, it was the fine art of fly-fishing, and when his fourth son, Nicholson J. “Nick” Eastman, was thrilled by the challenge of downhill skiing, Mr. Eastman joined him on the slopes.
Mr. Eastman and his wife were deeply involved with the outdoor education center on Spruce Knob in West Virginia, which started in 1972 as Woodlands & Whitewater Institute.
He had been its chairman for many years while his wife led many school groups on courses on Spruce Knob. Woodland expanded its operations to Nepal and South America, and has now come full circle with The Mountain Institute, which is located in Washington, and Spruce Knob operating as Experience Learning.
The Makalu Barun National Park in Nepal was another project that the couple had a shared interest in through Spruce Knob. The experience led to many trips to Nepal and Tibet.
Daniel Taylor, who was a co-founder of Woodlands & Whitewater Institute, which later became the Mountain Institute, got to know Mr. Eastman through his parents who attended his church.
“When we started Mountain Institute, Tom, who was so kind, and because of his kindness, he jumped right in and wanted to help out,” said Mr. Taylor, who is now president of Future Generations University in Franklin, West Virginia.
“Of course, when we started the organization we had no buildings, but Tom was drawn into helping with legal help and even swinging a hammer,” he said. “When we started the national park project in Nepal, for Tom it wasn’t a question of where the money was coming from. He just said, ‘What the heck, let’s do it.’ He always wanted to make the world a better place.”
“He was greatly influenced by Ajax,” Mr. Wolf said. “Tom was an environmental lawyer before there were environmental lawyers and he was always very sensitive to those issues.”
“Tom was the luckiest guy in the world because of Ajax. They were a real couple and team,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor recalled when Mr. Eastman decided to visit West Virginia because it was a nice day.
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“He got on his bike and rode 200 miles down here,” he said. “Tom was an environmentalist by example.”
Mr. Eastman’s fascination with photography began in his Gilman days, and one of the highlights of his life was accompanying the noted National Geographic photographer Galen Rowell, who was a wilderness photographer and mountaineer, on an assignment to Tibet.
Mr. Eastman was a longtime member of Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church, which has since merged with Govans Presbyterian Church. He had been clerk of the session and was actively involved with outreach work to Guatemala, where he had made many trips. He also had been on the board for many years of the Eudowood Foundation.
Dr. Ken Lewis, and his wife, Bonny, were close friends of the Eastmans. They knew them from church, and were traveling companions. They also had visited Guatemala together.
“I also did a lot of environmental things with Ajax,” Dr. Lewis recalled. “Tom was very adventuresome and a tremendous photographer. He took thousands of photos. I remember he went to Nepal once to photograph snow leopards, but never saw them. Tom was very friendly and outgoing, and that’s what made him such a good photographer, especially when taking pictures of Indigenous people. ”
Services will be held at 2 p.m. June 4 at Govans Presbyterian Church at 5828 York Road.
In addition to his four sons, Mr. Eastman is survived by four grandchildren.