Sunday, April 21, 2024

Douglas Earl Eastwood (1924-2009)

Douglas Eastwood, my father, passed away about 10:30 PM on Friday, April 17, 2009. He was 84 years old, and had been suffering from dementia. I wanted to set up an online memorial for people to visit, and with my own recent interest in blogging setting this up as a blog seemed like the best approach. This also has the benefit of allowing visitors to respond and add their own comments. Dad was always interested in the latest trends in computers and technology, so I think he would have appreciated this too.

This photo is from Dad's 1969 passport . He would have been 45 years old when this was taken, almost exactly the same age as I am today.

Thought I intend to create a number of posts here myself, my intention was that this might be a group project, so family and friends are invited to submit posts here too. If you have a story or picture you would like to share, please contact me so it can be included here.

[Written 4/21/2009, occasionally updated]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Halloween Remembered

My Mom was talking to me today about Halloween when she was a child. They did go door-to-door for candy and treats, but did have a lot of fun running around in the dark, scaring each other, writing on windows with soap, and re-arranging the neighbors lawn furniture to the house next door.
She also recount a story about how my Dad went to a teacher's house and wrote geometry theorem on the windows with soap. Evidently he did well, because the teacher offered an "A" if the student that did the deed would come forward, but he didn't try to claim his prize.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eastwood family history

Some Eastwood family history, contributed by DeLyle Eastwood.
Dr. DeLyle Eastwood Myrick groupFamily-parents [photo credit]

Earl Vivian Eastwood, born in Kansas ~ 1895?, and Thelma Bernice Yelton of Butler Kentucky, born in Marietta, Ohio, 1898, met at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky. Earl majored in the (dead) languages, then got a Bachelor of Divinity from the College of the Bible, although he was never ordained. Earl also studied to be a concert pianist, played football and hurt his knee, and worked as a cowboy during vacations. As we know, he ended up as a journalist/editor. Transylvania was pro-Darwin, pro-evolution, so that Thelma had to work her way through as a librarian and chaperone because her father did not approve of Transylvania. In the Transy yearbook Thelma, a double major in psychology and philosophy, was described as follows: “Her ways are the ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Earl was described as “Behold, there is a lion in the streets.” Thelma’s sister Ardis and her brother Chestley Lee also attended Transy. Chestley became a well-known pediatric orthopedic surgeon who was later in Who’s Who in America.

Earl’s first job was as an editor in a small town in Kentucky, where he fought the KKK by writing editorials. A cross was burned in their front yard while Earl was out of town. They both hated the KKK , which ended up buying the newspaper to get rid of Earl’s editorials. Earl then got a newspaper job in Indianapolis, where Doug was born in 1924. Earl’s next job was on the Philadelphia Public Ledger, where he and Thelma both enjoyed the Pennsylvania Dutch country and its food. He eventually had a newspaper column under the name of Jonathan Dayton in which he referred to his children as Winken (Douglas, 1924), Blinken (Ellin, 1928) and Nod (DeLyle, 1932).

Doug was very precocious, reciting A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young and Winnie the Pooh at age one and a half. But trouble was coming. Doug was “sickly,” suffering from asthma and allergies. He came down with bacterial spinal meningitis with a 107 F fever and became deaf in one ear. His case was written up in medical journals as he was the first documented survivor before antibiotics were developed. Our parents were left terribly high medical bills.

Then more trouble: The Great Depression, the banks crashed. DeLyle’s birth was a Caesarian, and when she was six months old Thelma caught undulant fever (brucellosis) from eating unpasteurized ice cream, which lasted eight years until a cure was found. Earl’s bookish friends included Christopher Morley, author of Kitty Foyle, Hal Borland, Hal Boyle, and Don Marquis, author of Archie and Mehitabel. We always had over a thousand books, including complete sets of Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling, the Encyclopedia Americana, plus always five newspapers.

Next we moved to Dayton, Ohio, where Earl was city editor of the Dayton Journal Herald. We stayed in Dayton until about 1944. I remember Doug being a member of the American Junior Rocket Society and having a bedroom full of model airplanes and boats. He subscribed to Astounding Science Fiction and read Sprague de Camp, Heinlein and Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and E.E Smith. He was a semi-finalist in the Westinghouse science contest, though his grades were not outstanding unless he was interested in the topic.

In the summers we went rowing and swimming at Atwood Lake in Indiana for two weeks, and Doug also went to Boy Scout camp which he seemed to enjoy. In the winters in Ohio in the 1940’s there were unusually bright displays of the Aurora Borealis, which we all enjoyed. We used to compete to get downstairs early Christmas mornings to open our stockings first. The last time I did it, when I thought Doug had lost interest, he set an alarm on the stairs and came sliding down the banister ahead of me. At Transy, he worked for a physics professor and talked the Navy recruiting station into giving him an aptitude test for radar operator. He scored so high they did not have him take the physical, which he would not have passed, being 4 F for several reasons.

When Mother hung up a blue star she recited The Spartan Mother’s Farewell to her Son.
“Return with your Shield or upon it.” The Navy was good for Doug’s health and he qualified for the G.I .Bill. He reached Guam and would have been on an aircraft carrier in
the second wave if it would have been necessary to invade Japan.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Important Things

Here are a few pictures of some things my Dad really treasured.

Most of these are Scouting related service pins.

This is the Silver Beaver award, which he received for service in the Wood Badge training program.
Established in 1931, the Silver Beaver Award is the council-level distinguished service award of the Boy Scouts of America. Recipients of this award are registered adult leaders who have made an impact on the lives of youth through service given to the council.

The Silver Beaver is an award given to those who implement the Scouting program and perform community service through hard work, self sacrifice, dedication, and many years of service. It is given to those who do not actively seek it.

Finally, the thing he treasured most of all (my Mom).

Friday, June 12, 2009

In Memory

Bryce Eastwood Saxophone
Bryce has contributed something really special; a musical tribute to his Grandfather.

In Memory - Link to MP3

In Memory - Link to M4A (RealPlayer)

Bryce Eastwood - Alto Saxophone and Piano
Recorded May 2009

More music from Bryce can be found at Current Impulse 7.

Friday, May 15, 2009

... and Ruby

Ruby Doug Eastwood Wedding

Forgive me, but I have been remiss. There is someone that deserves a very special mention here.

Ruby Doug Dan Flagstaff

That person is my mother (Ruby), of course. My parents were married in 1947.

She did so much these past few years to take care of dad, often wearing herself out.

Dementia is a cruel disease. It takes the memories of people and everything else a person loves. There were a few times when dad did not seem to recognize me, but he never forgot the wife he adored so much.

Doug Ruby Portrait

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monty Python

In another forum I wrote ...

Among the many things I inherited from my father was his sense of humor, and when I was a teenager we delighted in watching Monty Python's Flying Circus together. He also shared with me his deep interest in science and learning. During science classes in school while I was growing up I always did very well, and didn't understand why some people found it difficult. Only much later did it occur to me that I did well because my dad had already taught me so much. It's handy when your dad is a professor of computer science and a PhD physicist, you learn a lot of cool stuff just being around that sort of thing.

... which is the intro to a post I wrote about my dad on another forum where I participate; a group dedicated to distributed computing and Monty Python-esque humor. Especially the humor. There is a different sort of memorial there you could visit. Fair warning, you might discover my alter-ego.

On second thought, don't follow that link, it is a silly place. ;-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Robin Hill recalls

Robin writes:
Doug (Mr. Eastwood, Dr. Eastwood-- I vacillated) was well known to me as Susan's father during our college years, and after. Always the gentleman, and always the intelligent listener, he was the first person to take me seriously as a computer scientist. That sure meant a lot. I went off to graduate school before we could do much together professionally-- more than once-- but I always took pleasure in sharing the news, questions and gossip of our field with him. [image]

And the news, questions, and gossip of the world, as well! Doug was a good conversationalist who retained the air of courtly etiquette that must have come with his Kentucky upbringing, without retaining any narrowness of outlook.

This blog reflects a respectable legacy. His fine family would, and did, make him proud.
Robin Hill is another old friend of the family. Unless I miss my guess, the building behind Robin in the picture about is Coe Library at the University of Wyoming.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Old Photos

Vanda has created a picture gallery:

Vanda writes:
Here are some photos of a young Doug. I think they are joyful.

I think Vanda is right.

I have created another album with some more photos.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"John Henry" recalls "Dr. Eastwood"

John H Schmidt III, MD, writes ...
Dear Dan,

I was very sad to hear of your father's passing and hope that your mother is able to cope with such a loss. I have thought often of your father since I knew him in Laramie in the early '70s. He was such a good man and he had a great influence on me. I never told him that. . .that I learned from him more than anyone else what it means to be a man. More than any professor or hospital attending and probably more than from my own father. . . in his manner and in his actions. The other day in the grocery store I thought of your dad. .. .a can of vegetables had fallen from a man's cart in the checkout line. .. . I told my 12 year old son Tristan who was with me to pick it up immediately and put it back in the cart. I learned that from your father and I tell Tristan too because of it to try to help where you can instantly and without thinking about whether it's politically correct or cool or even whether you're needed or not. . .if you can help, do it. . . I learned that from your father's example. I'm also sorry I could never rise to a standard as father and husband as was his by example. Dr. Eastwood (I could never address him as "Doug" despite his repeated requests) had a quality that all physicians should have, but one that many lack. .. .."Aequanimitas" as William Osler called it . . .the evenness in one's approach to the practice of medicine (or life) that is neither boastful nor apologetic. Again, I'm sorry for your loss. My best to your family.

John Henry
John H. Schmidt, III, M.D.

I would like to add that Dr. Schmidt has been a good friend of the family for many years. We had a lot of people named John around the house in the early '70, so we always referred to him as "John Henry" to avoid confusion. I recall that John Henry taught me a few things and kindness and being a man himself.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Doug McIlroy recalls Bell Labs days

The following is a combined comment and email from Doug McIlroy, who worked with dad at Bell Labs. I am reposting it here so it will be easier to find, and also because computer science was such a big part of dad's life I think it deserves its own category. Thanks to Tony for finding and contacting Dr. McIroy.

Doug McIlroy Dartmouth[Doug McIlroy writes:] On joining the Bell Labs math department, I was given an office next to Doug Eastwood's. Soon after, George Mealy (of finite-state machine fame) suggested to a small group of us that a macro-instruction facility be added to our assembler (the program that converted human-readable machine language into machine-readable binary code.) This idea caught the fancy of us two Dougs, and set the course of our research for some time to come. We split the job in half: Eastwood took care of defining macros; McIlroy handled the expansion of macro calls.

A macro is simply a shorthand for a command. For example, you might declare that "cook rice 20", means get rice from storage, put it in a pot, cover it with water, set the pot on the stove, and turn it on for 20 minutes. Once you've told what "cook" means, you can use it over and over again in macro calls like "cook beans 4" or "cook potatoes 15".

The macro system we built enabled truly astonishing applications. Macros took hold in the Labs' most important project, electronic switching systems, in an elaborated form that served as their primary programming language for a couple of decades.

Once macros had been incorporated, the assembler was processing code written wholesale by machine (i.e. by the assembler itself) rather than retail by people. This stressed the assembler in ways that had never been seen before. The size of its vocabulary jumped from about 100 different instructions to that plus an unlimited number of newly defined ones. The real size of programs jumped because one human-written line of code was often shorthand for many, many machine-written lines. And the number of symbolic names in a program jumped, because macros could invent new names like crazy.

Foreseeing these stresses, Doug set out to improve the affected parts of the assemble. His most dramatic improvement was to cope with the proliferation of symbols, which was particularly pernicious because each factor of 10 in number of symbols incurred a factor of 100 in running time. The time to assemble code could now far exceed the time to run it.

By deploying a newly published sorting method, Doug squashed the cost of symbol lookup back to seconds. Another of his improvements gained only a bit of speed, but had the effect of letting one change the meaning of basic instructions! This enabled some quite powerful programming tricks.

I can still hear Doug's resonant voice, and see his friendly smile, just as in the photos on this blog. His office saw a steady stream of clients looking for advice. This he gave unstintingly, with the same sense of service that permeated his later life, too. Many people at the Labs were helped over hard places by him, but probably none had their future more notably shaped by collaboration with Doug than I. It was a lucky day when I drew the office next to him.


Doug McIlroy DartmouthThanks, Dan and Anthony [Sucheston], for the blog and for sniffing me out. I'd lost track of Doug after he moved to Wyoming. In fact I last tried Googling for him only about a month ago, but found only stale information. I'm delighted to be able to post some reminiscences of Doug, with whom I collaborated on my first professional work, which turned out to be a great success and a source of pride for both of us. I've passed the news to some other old Bell Labs hands, who met him considerably later and mainly in passing. But they all remember him nonetheless for his competence and gentlemanly ways.

Doug McIlroy
And thank you Dr. McIlroy for sharing that. I had heard some of that story, but you have helped put the parts I know together more sensibly. These past few years dad was not able to remember and talk about these things, and it is really great to be about to recover some of that personal history I thought was lost.

More information here.
[images Dartmouth College Department of Computer Science]

Phyllis writes ...

When I think of Doug, I think of a man beaming with pride. His happiness in his family's accomplishments was deep and palpable. I watched his face at his granddaughters' graduations, saw his face light up when he would see his son. Just looking at photographs of his children and grandchildren would bring the most wonderful expression to his charming face.
A kind and intelligent man, he is one of the most easy going, approachable people I have known. I respect his significant accomplishments but more importantly appreciate the kind of man he was: quick to smile, easy to hug, and taking deep pleasure in the life he created and the people around him. I will miss him dearly.

Phyllis DeGioia

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Versions of this obituary were submitted to the Waukesha Freeman and Laramie Boomerang.

Douglas Earl Eastwood

July 31, 1924 - April 17, 2009

Douglas Earl Eastwood, 84, passed away Thursday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease*.

Douglas was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Earl V. Eastwood and Thelma Yelton Eastwood. He was raised and graduated from high school in Dayton, Ohio. After serving in the Navy during WWII, he earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where he met his wife, Ruby Carolyn Collins Eastwood. Douglas went on to earn a Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky and a PhD in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

As one of the first computer scientists in the country, Douglas worked on developing computer languages at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. He became Director of the Computer Center at Rutgers University, and founded the Computer Science department at the University of Wyoming. He worked for the Department of Energy and Bureau of Mines. He also started his own business, Action Computing, in Laramie, Wyoming.

Douglas was a deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church in Meyersville, New Jersey and in Laramie, Wyoming. He was very active as an adult leader for the Boy Scouts of America. He also volunteered recording audio books for the blind. He loved hiking, camping and fishing in the mountains of Wyoming.

Douglas is survived by his wife of sixty-two years, Ruby Carolyn Collins Eastwood of Waukesha, Wisconsin, their three children, Dan (Deb) Eastwood of Waukesha, Wisconsin, John (Kathy) Eastwood of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Susan (Tony Paticchio) Eastwood of Ashford, Connecticut, five grandchildren (Aidan, Bryce, Emma, Erin, and Megan), a sister DeLyle Eastwood of Pullman, Washington and four nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his sister Ellin Carter.

A memorial service is planned; details to be announced. Contributions may be made in his memory to the Presbyterian Church, Alzheimer’s research, Boy Scouts of America or The Caring Place, Attn: Mary Johnson, 810 North East Ave., Waukesha, WI 53186.

Viva Flatland

[Reposted from Dread Tomato Addiction, written 4/18/2009]

Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbot, was my first math book. I probably had math textbooks in school before this, but Flatland is the book I remember. Flatland mattered, because it caught my imagination.
Flatland Edwin A. AbbotMy Dad showed me this book, and walked me through the concepts of understanding dimensions. I learned to that a creature in a two-dimensional Flatland would find it difficult to grasp the concept of a third "up and down" dimension completely outside of their experience. This gave me a new insight on how our own 3-D world might seem similarly "flat" to a creature that lives and perceives in 4 or more dimensions. The concept of higher dimensions, which was and is beyond my experience, suddenly made sense, and these were fascinating thoughts for my pre-teen mind.

My Dad taught me a lot of cool stuff. He was a Physicist by training, and a Computer Scientist from the time when the field was just inventing itself. There were always science books around the house, not to mention science fiction. Also magazines; The latest issues of Science, Scientific American, and Analog could usually be found on his desk. These provided a constant supply of real and fanciful ideas for a young mind. My dad always thought of himself as a scientist. He always tried to keep up with the latest innovations and discoveries in science and technology. He never stopped trying to learn, and perhaps the greatest thing he ever taught me was that I should never stop trying to learn either.

When I started writing this post a few days ago, it was just supposed to be about Flatland, and my rediscovery of an old book that had a big influence on me. Thing change though, and so have the direction of my thoughts over the past few days. My father, my teacher, my mentor, passed away peacefully last night, his body finally giving in to illness and deterioration brought on by progressive dementia. I thought I was prepared for this, but knowledge that death is coming doesn't quite prepare you for its arrival. Though his slow decline has been painful to see, I am grateful he could be with us for so long, and that the disease took him as quickly as it did; Amazingly quickly compared to what I understand to be the normal course of dementia, which is a testament to how well he was able to adapt and compensate for as long as he did.

Things change, and the student becomes the teacher. One of my reasons for this blog is to pass on some of that fascination with science that my Dad instilled in me. Also, to pass along (some might say "inflict") some of his sense of humor as well, which I also seem to have inherited.

Things change. People pass on. I miss you Dad. God bless.

In Loving Memory: Douglas Earl Eastwood (1924-2009).
Flatland Edwin A. Abbot
[Hat tip to God Plays Dice for leading me to E-Books Directory and 4DLab, where is found this PDF edition of Flatland. Hence the source of the illustrations.]
Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature


This picture was most likely taken in the mid-1980's. Dad was very active in the Boy Scouts, and participated in the Longs Peak Council leadership.
There must be dozens of stories I could tell about Dad and our time in the Boy Scouts. I'll have to work on that.