A Clinton resident who opened up his property to purple martin birds and people who loved to watch them has died at age 84.
Franklin Bidinger pioneered a method of attracting the birds to his home near Clinton Lake by carving out gourds for natural bird houses. He and his wife, Betty, got interested in attracting the birds as a means of cutting down on the large mosquito population near their home.
“He just loved them to pieces,” Betty said.
At one point, 300 pairs of purple martins made his property their home.
“You don’t see people with such a large colony,” said Louise Chambers of Corpus Christi, Texas, who works as education outreach director for the nonprofit Purple Martin Conservation Association.
Bidinger worked for 20 years in the Lawrence water department and for 13 years at KU’s steam department.
He took pride in his abilities as a fast-pitch softball pitcher, baffling hitters with his crazy pitches, said Bill Oehlert, Bidinger’s stepson from La Porte, Texas. Bidinger played on a town team, and his father often was his catcher, Oehlert said.
“He’s the most natural storyteller and the most interesting — and interested — person you’d ever meet,” Oehlert said.
Friends may call from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. today at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, 601 Ind. A procession to Clinton Cemetery will follow the visitation. Graveside services are scheduled for 11:30 a.m.