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Harland Eastman: A Man of the World Remembered 

Caption: Harland Eastman, who died Feb. 29, 2024, left a huge mark on his community. Photo: Sanford-Springvale Historical Society

By Lawrence Furbish 

In 2004, when I retired and moved back home to Sanford, I wanted to become involved with the local historical society. I was told to contact Harland Eastman. He explained straightaway that there was no historical society, only the Sanford Historical Committee, an official committee of the town. He told me to write a letter to the selectmen explaining my background and interest and was kind enough to point out an error in my first draft. After several weeks and receiving no reply, I asked him if that meant they did not want me. He immediately dashed off an outraged letter to the First Selectman, attacking him for not immediately appointing this “interested citizen” to the committee. I very shortly received my appointment letter. 

In 2005, when the town wanted to rid itself of the former Town Hall in Springvale, the longtime site of SSYAA basketball, Harland decided it would be an excellent location for a historical museum and led the Historical Committee on a tour of the building, pointing out where he envisioned walls, display areas, and a library. The building was in shambles, with holes in the stage, boarded-up windows, and horrible carpet glued to the floor. I really thought that Harland was nuts. Of course, he was right; that rundown building would be transformed into a beautiful museum filled with interesting treasures from Sanford’s past. Harland pretty much singlehandedly raised the money for that transformation. He used to joke that when people saw him coming they locked the door and pulled down their shades because they knew he was coming to ask for a donation. 

Harland was a first-rate conversationalist. He immensely enjoyed holding forth on many of his favorite topics: history, especially of Sanford and Springvale, books, classical music and opera, Colby College, and his many adventures serving in U.S. consulates around the world. He told wonderful stories, such as how his son, Stephen, unexpectedly became a chorister in a prestigious Liverpool (England) church, how he met Saïd, who would eventually become his adopted son because of a minor bicycle accident in Morocco, and the trials of dealing with a U.S. secretary of state in Vietnam who had to have the biggest chair so he would sit above everyone else in the room. 

Not long after the museum opened, Harland began a quest for a concert grand piano. The good ones were very expensive, but he discovered a Beckstein in Maine, made in Germany, that was available. He arranged for a pianist friend to try it out and she pronounced it first-rate. Then suddenly, like a miracle, a check arrived from a donor who wanted the museum to have that piano. Harland loved explaining to everyone that a Beckstein was the preferred piano of Franz Liszt. Thus began the concert series that has brought so many fine musicians and wonderful music to the stage of the museum.  

Harland had many close friends in England that he kept up with over the years. The son of one such friend, Harry Bicket, became a very well-known opera conductor and Harland loved to travel down to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City when Harry was in town to see him conduct and have lunch or dinner.  

As a young man, Harland was the first Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar from our Rotary District; he was sent to study abroad in England. After belonging to several Rotary Clubs around the world, he became a longtime member of the Sanford-Springvale Rotary Club, serving as president in 1989-90. He went from being an active member to an honorary member after the club changed from a luncheon club to a breakfast club because he didn’t like getting up at such an “uncivilized” hour. Rotary has a Four Way Test to provide ethical guidance in the things members think, say, and do. The first test is, “Is it the truth?” Because of that test, I must admit that on occasions, Harland could be a bit strong-willed, but I respected, admired, and loved the man. I am very happy I got to know him as well as I did and will greatly miss him.  

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