BY AMY WITSCHEY
A Wetzel County man's lifetime of observation, collection, documentation, and research will live on and inspire others at West Virginia University.
At left, Yong-Lak Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of entomology, Division of Plant and Soil Services at WVU; accepts the The Edward Estep Insect Collection from Edward Estep’s sister, Lois Estep, at right. In the center is Denise Nielsen Tackett of the Wetzel County Museum who helped facilitate the donation. (Photo by Amy?Witschey)
The late Edward Estep donated his vast insect collection to the educational facility just before his passing on Feb. 3, 2012. Denise Nielsen Tackett with the Wetzel County Museum helped facilitate the donation.
Yong-Lak Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of entomology, Division of Plant and Soil Services at WVU, began the delicate task of transporting the fragile specimens from Estep's New Martinsville home in late spring. In fact, the final transfer of his donation will happen this week when WVU will take the case in which the 27 drawers of mounted and identified Wetzel and Marshall County insects were stored.
The WVU team was amazed at Estep's meticulous collection that included notes with each specimen as to its latin name and where it was gathered. He really got into the process of studying and collecting the insects in 1956. True to form, whatever Estep got into, he did it enthusiastically.
While the insects were obviously given much care, Park pointed out that some deterioration had occurred. "Once it is moved to WVU, it will be professionally taken care of," said Park as the transfer began. Last week he said, "It will take at least a month to finish, but in that way we can have specimens that can last longer in the future." The university obviously know how to handle such things as he pointed out that they still have some specimens from the 1800s.
"We are excited to receive your donation and it will be a good addition to our collection," said a letter to Estep written by Park and Research Assistant Vicki Kondo just two days before Estep's death.
"The Edward Estep Insect Collection" is now part of The Insectarium: WVU Arthopod Zoo and Museum. It will be used for research, teaching, and outreach activities at WVU.
Undoubtedly nothing could have pleased Estep more than knowing his gift will impart valuable learning possibilities to many others.
He was always learning, inspiring, and sharing that knowledge and wonder to others. He used his self-taught expertise in natural history to give lectures and present slide programs to a variety of groups. He was very active in his church, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, where he trained altar boys for 28 years and was a teacher of religion. He also worked with the Boy Scouts, a natural outreach for someone who loved nature.
"His unquenchable interest in geology, geography, botany, biology, astronomy, mathematics, and history pulled into his slipstream anyone who showed interest," said friend Steve Herrick. "I recently rediscovered the box of 'representative rocks' which he coached me to collect from each of the 13 states we visited on our 1962 car/camping trip across the country. Each rock was labeled as to its place of discovery, type of rock, its importance, etc."
Herrick also fondly recalled all of the camping tips Estep shared with him. "He began most instructions with 'This is how Perry and I would. . . ' start a fire, pitch the tent, cook a breakfast. . . ," said Herrick. "Perry" was Estep's childhood friend, Perry Moore of Hundred. "To this day, if I use more than one match to start a fire, I feel that Eddie would be disappointed."
"We can take some solace in the knowledge that the world is a better place because of the relentless way in which Eddie pursued it," said Herrick. "I find myself fortunate to have shared some parts of his journey."
While much of Estep's knowledge and research came independently of schooling, he did receive formal training. He graduated from Hundred High School in 1949 and West Virginia University in 1953 with a B.S. degree in chemistry.
He served in the ROTC at WVU and served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at MHAFB and Scott AFB.
Estep's sister, Lois Estep, has nothing but praise and admiration for her late brother. "He had a mind that just soared!" she said. When Park was physically transferring the collection, she said her brother would have so loved to have talked with the professor and have a meeting of the minds. That might not have happened face to face, but there is no doubt that Park understood his fellow entomologist and revered his collection.