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A Crawford treasure will be missed


Just a thought


July 27, 2011
I can't say how many times I have turned to Richard Eastridge, Crawford County historian, for answers while working on a story for the newspaper. He was always my go-to guy, and he always had the information I needed.

Richard was a walking encyclopedia of information about Crawford County. Of all the questions I posed to him through the years, he never really had to look anything up. He had a memory that was second to none and loved knowing the answers.

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Richard Eastridge often could be found doing genealogical research at the Crawford County Public Library in English. Photo courtesy of Becky Hammond Stetter
I was working on a story about a small town in Crawford County one time and, after interviewing several people, thought I had my facts all gathered and began writing the story. Then, I called Richard for some information and had to re-write everything. He knew more about the little town than most people who lived there.

He knew the history of almost every little country church and school in the county. He knew family histories. He knew the history of many bridges and roads, and he knew who owned many of the farms throughout the county a century ago and when the owners died. He knew what businesses used to be in many of the county's small towns, and he knew more about the Taswell and Eckerty communities than anyone.

For several years, Richard wrote his "Sycamore" column for the Clarion News. He was never one to do a big "belly laugh" at much of anything; rather, he had a certain little grin when he was amused. However, his column revealed a wonderful sense of humor and wit that put a smile on my face many times.

On July 16, we were shocked to learn that Richard, who was 67, had passed away that morning at Jasper Memorial Hospital. We knew that he hadn't been well for a while, but it's still hard to get news about a lost friend.

And Richard had many friends. He taught school in Crawford County for 36 years and, when many of his students became adults, he taught their children. And I'd bet that few of those students ever forgot him.

He taught biology during his teaching career, but his real interest was history and especially the history of Crawford County. A descendent of early pioneer settlers of Crawford County, Eastridge developed an appreciation of local history and never grew tired of rummaging through old records, photographs, maps and newspapers to compile an historical portrait of the county. And he loved to share it with others.

Richard was instrumental in the development of the Crawford County Historical and Genealogical Society years ago and worked diligently to further the group's goals.

A few years ago, the Indiana Historical Society presented Richard with the Hubert Hawkins History Award, recognizing him for his "distinguished service and career in local history." He was also a recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash. In a letter to a state representative in support of the award, Assistance Librarian Becky Hammond Stetter of the Crawford County Public Library, who oversees the library's genealogy section, wrote, "I am constantly amazed how much local history he can pull from his incredible memory that would take me a very long time (if ever) to find."

She went on to say that, when people come to the library from out of town to research family history, Eastridge will "drop what he's doing and change his plans so he can accommodate visitors whenever possible."

"He selflessly spends the day assisting them at the library and at the courthouse, and accompanying to the 'old home place' of their ancestors, or to their cemeteries," she wrote. "All of these people feel great appreciation for his generosity of sharing his knowledge and his time. Crawford County shines because of him. Richard is a true Indiana gentleman who inspires me to also learn as much local history as I can, to be able to help others search their Crawford County ties. He is a treasure of Crawford County, an individual that no one will ever be able to fill his shoes. He has touched many lives."

Stetter told me the last week that "I'm going to miss him so much." And so will we. He was a gem, and everyone who knew him recognized that.

Our condolences go out to his wife, Priscilla, and his children.

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