Farewell, Blazin' Ben

 


On July 11, 1932, "Blazin' Ben" Eastman appeared on the cover of Time. A few weeks later, the holder of eight world track records (a medley of quarter- and half-mile distances) got more publicity when he won a silver Olympic medal in the 400-meter event at Los Angeles. He got a bit more publicity when his 440-yard world record of 46.4 seconds was finally broken, 40 years later.


From 1932, until the obituaries following his death Oct. 6 at age 91, Ben mostly stayed out of the press. The native Californian had moved to an old orchard outside the small town of Hotchkiss, Colo., in 1959, where he and his wife, Eddie, occupied a house built from a Sears catalog kit and, in his words, "plowed the heck out of the land." He created a productive orchard that he managed until shortly before his death.


The longtime HCN subscriber was very community-minded. Ben served on various boards and commissions, including a stint on the Colorado Agricultural Commission.


At his memorial service, people said Ben had lived his life the way he ran, with long, relaxed strides. He did not beat his own drum. When a visitor recently asked to see his Olympic medal, the Eastmans said they weren't sure where it was.


But Ben's memorial service beat a quiet drum against the coal-bed methane development that is rousing the North Fork Valley (HCN, 9/2/02: Backlash). Mourner Michael McCarthy said that the last thing Ben said to him, in a hoarse whisper, was "Go get 'em."


Ben is survived by his wife, three sons, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.