“If I can help somebody / As I travel along. / If I can help somebody with a word or song,” then “My living shall not be in vain.” These words, sang by Mahalia Jackson, the Queen of Gospel, exemplify the legacy of Ruth Haskins. Known to many as either “Aunt Ruth” or “Miss Ruth,” Ruth lived a life of service, providing laughter, joy, and support—emotional, financial, and physical–to all who knew her.
Ruth Louise Haskins was born on March 2, 1933 to the late Clara Bell and Watt Haskins. The youngest daughter of six children, she was raised in the Campostella section of Norfolk and graduated from the old Booker T. Washington High School.
Ruth was known for her friendly, easy-going nature and her sense of humor. She loved to tease people; engage in a little neighborhood gossip; and watch Westerns, Kung Fu, and scary movies, during which she would excitedly exclaim “Lord! Lord!”
She is predeceased by her three brothers, Lorenzo Haskins, William “Thomas” Haskins, and James “Jimmy” Haskins; her sister, Mary “La-La” Lewis; and her longtime partner and the love of her life, Lindsey “Mr. Lindsey” Pinner.
Although her union with Lindsey was not blessed with any children, Ruth was the quintessential black aunt and a mother to us all. She straddled the roles of elder and friend, stepping in and providing care, financial support, endless love, and a stabilizing force for children not biologically her own. Many a child or neighborhood friend has benefitted from Ruth’s largesse and generosity of spirit.
On May 7, 2019, at the age of 86, Ruth passed away peacefully. Left to cherish her memory are her sister, Dorothy L. Matthews of Norfolk, and a host of nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews, cousins, and friends. Her living was not in vain.