Connie Haskins and Haskins Steel

Woman of Steel

Seventy years ago in Cushing, Oklahoma Bud Haskins and his cousin Ed flipped a coin to see who would get to take out Viva Minor and who would get stuck with her kid sister Connie. Bud lost the toss but ended winning big in the end. For Connie it was meant to be.
“The first time I saw him at school I told my sister I was going to go with him,” Connie said recently in her soft Southern drawl that 60 years in Spokane could not erase. ” She said he would never go with you, he’s the captain of the football team. I said, well I was.” Bud and Connie were secretly married two years later when she turned 16. “He asked me to marry him when I was 14, but I said no,” she said.
In 1947 Bud took a welding job with Kyle Welding and brought his wife and two small children to Spokane. When his boss, Lennis Kyle was killed on the job a year later, Bud rented the shop and started the Haskins Company. In 1950 he bought a vacant lot on Main off Freya and moved his operation to that location.
“I remember he told me that someday we would own the whole block and I said balony,” she said, shaking her head with a smile. ” Now we own four blocks.”
Connie was reluctant to help with the company because she wanted to devote her energy to her children but when the bookkeeper died shortly after the move to Main, Bud turned to Connie. “He said he just needed me to help out for a few months,” she said, rolling her eyes. Connie ended up working full time doing the books until May of this year, 11 years after Bud had passed away.
“I don’t know where Mom got the energy,” Sterling, her son, told me recently. “Every morning my shoes would be shined for school and Mom would make us breakfast and then she would head off to work. After school my sister and I would go down to the office and she would bring us home at 6 and make dinner. She usually brought home bookwork and worked on that until 11 and then sew until 1 or 2 and then be right back at it the next day.”
As the years passed and Bud and Connie’s extended families moved up from Oklahoma, Connie made them Sunday dinner every week for years. “Mom fed 25 to 80 people every Sunday and she let no one bring a thing. She did all the cooking,” he said, adding that the house was full for holiday meals as well.
It would seem that Connie’s plate would have been full enough with the business and her family but she had another passion to which she devoted her boundless energy: her church.
For 25 years Connie taught Sunday School at Pines Baptist Church. And for many more years than that she was church hostess which meant she attended every service, business meeting, every revival, every everything. You did not got to a service at Pines without seeing Connie sitting in her ordained seat three pews back next to the middle aisle.
“I don’t think anyone ever went to the hospital from Pines without Mom visiting them,” Sterling said, adding that Connie herself spent a lot of time in the operating room. “Mom really never had great health. I think she had something like 14 operations through the years.”
But nothing slowed  her down for long and everything she devoted herself to prospered from her efforts. Today Haskins Steel has 93 employees and more than a 1,000 customers throughout the Northwest . The Haskins Company employs several more constructing grain facilities all over the West and commercial buildings in Spokane.
When Elaine and I went to interview Connie at her beautiful suite at Courtland Place, we were moved but not surprised to see the dozens of cards displayed on her large dining room table sent from friends and family for her 86th birthday. It reminded me of all the Christmas cards she had sent to us since the first Christmas we were married. I wondered how big her list must have been considering all the hundreds of people she knew from Pines and her company. I knew that we did not deserve such love and attention from someone so busy and important as Connie but if I had suggested such a thing she would have put her lips together in her crooked smile and tilted her head with one eyebrow raised as she put her arms around me and told me that she loved me like I was one of her own children. That was something I had heard all of my life and know that hundreds of others had heard the same thing from this beautiful woman whose love was as close to her beloved Jesus as anyone I have ever known.

BTY-    It turns out that Bud’s brother Ed was also a big winner in the coin toss as well because he wound up marrying Viva, moving to Spokane to work with Bud and was always a welcome guest at Connie’s Sunday family dinners.

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