In his basement workshop, Rellan “Bob” Hastings lovingly made wooden toys for local preschool programs. He crafted trains, fire trucks, doll cradles and even puzzle pieces to replace those that were lost.
“When you see their faces light up and how they play with the toys, it’s really satisfying,” Hastings once said of his gifts to Ruth Benner Head Start and another program.
Hastings, of Lakeville and formerly Coon Rapids, died June 27. He was 96.
He and his late wife, Lila Hastings, spent a lifetime volunteering for the Salvation Army, Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels, Union Gospel Mission, Store to Door and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. They distributed government commodities to the needy, too, said son and daughter-in-law Bruce and Deb Hastings.
A World War II veteran, Rellan Hastings also was a longtime booster for the Shriners, helping to raise more than $100 million for children’s hospitals and other charities.
In 2005, when he’d already volunteered for 65 years, he won KARE-TV’s “Eleven Who Care” award, and he kept on volunteering.
“He just loved to help people,” said former neighbor Nancy Brown.
Rellan and Lila Hastings lived happily for many years on Juniper Street in Coon Rapids. She died in 2003.
He’d cross the street for tea with Brown, who with her family had “adopted” him as a surrogate grandfather. He’d reminisce, and she’d jot down his memories, including details of his birthplace — tiny Pierpont, S.D.
“It was the land of endless prairies; you could see forever,” he’d told her for his memoirs.
“My father was a carpenter and a cabinetmaker. Work was sporadic, so once we lived in a tar-paper shack. We moved around a lot, which meant I went to many different schools.”
At age 7, his family moved to Minneapolis. He attended six grade schools, three junior high schools and three high schools. Family was the one constant.
“When I was a boy, Christmas was a big deal,” he had said. “We had little money, so it wasn’t the presents, but the tree and good food and being with family. That hasn’t changed for me. Family means the world to me.”
Hastings graduated from Minneapolis North High School in 1936 and served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, stationed in Australia, briefing pilots.
He went to business school, taught at Dunwoody Institute and lived in Columbia Heights for years. His 1979 retirement as labor relations manager at Whirlpool in St. Paul carved out more time for woodworking.
“You can see how working with wood has been handed down to me,” Hastings had told Brown. “I make toys and repair puzzles for Head Start and Early Childhood Education. And my son Bruce does remodeling, so my love of working with wood has been handed down to him.”
Rellan Hastings was a member of the Masons for 72 years, receiving top honors. He was a George Hixon Fellow with Golden K Kiwanis and reveled in mixing malts in their State Fair booth.
The North Suburban Gavel Association gave him a Distinguished Leadership Award. And he was long active at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton.