McCrabb: ‘Mom’ started working at this Middletown family-owned company 55 years ago, and she never left

Fifty-six years ago — the year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Pete Rose broke into the Major Leagues — Akers Packaging, a small, family-owned Middletown business, was founded and was looking for a billing clerk.

Betty Yelton, who worked at Akers, called the Middletown Business College, located above the Gallagher Drug Store at the corner of Central Avenue and Broad Street, and asked if there were any possible candidates.

MORE McCRABB: Meet my 10 most intriguing people of 2018

The person mentioned a second-year student by the name of Becky Hasty, who graduated from Middletown High School in 1961, rarely missed school and showed promise.

Send her over for an interview, Yelton said.

Three days later, Hasty started her career as a billing clerk at Akers Packaging Service Group on Lefferson Road. She still works there, more than 55 years later, her computer covered with sticky notes.

There are a few ways to look at Hasty’s career: She never received a promotion, she applied for only one job outside Akers, then decided she’d just stay, and since she likes her work, it’s really not a job.

Hasty celebrated her 75th birthday last week, and hopes to work at Akers for five more years if her mind and body remain sharp. That would give her 60 years at Akers.

“I was going to work as long as they’d have me,” Hasty said about those early days. “Then every year was another year, every year was another year.”

MORE McCRABB: Her cancer diagnosis rocked her family. Then the Madison community responded in beautiful ways.

But 55 years? At the same place?

“It’s been good to me,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “Good company to work for.”

And before she knew it, there were 55 candles on her anniversary cake in the cafeteria. In those years, Hasty has attended employee weddings, birthday parties and funerals. You celebrate together. You mourn together. You spend 55 years at a family-owned business and your co-workers become close friends.

Those in the office have learned to rely on Hasty. She has institutional knowledge. She’s Alexa before computers.

“She’s our foundation,” said Jim Heywood, the Akers general manager. “The office is where everything happens. Everybody goes to her. She’s such a resource. … For someone like myself, she’s a great resource. You don’t have to worry about anything. We don’t call her ‘Mom’ for nothing. She keeps us in line. That’s the best way to put it.”

She also can balance the books. If there’s a missing unit, a misplaced penny, Hasty finds it and corrects the error.

“She’s a perfectionist,” Heywood said. “It’s done perfect every day. You’ve got modern technology meets old school and somewhere in the middle of that, we have zero mistakes. Zero. You can say that for that desk.

“We have grown, and there is a reason.”

That line was like a softball, and Hasty hit it out of the park: “Because I find them mistakes.”

William “Billy” Akers II, the son of the founder, remembers running around the office as a young boy. “Mom” was there that day and she’s still there.

MORE McCRABB: There are two Billie Crabtrees, the addict and the community asset. We can learn from both.

“It’s a family business and people feel like family,” said Akers II, chief executive officer. “Coming here is like coming home.”

But they know Hasty, who has two grown children — William, 42, and Polly, 38 — and a 13-year-old granddaughter, Kellie Rebekah Stumpf, won’t work forever. All the great ones have to retire. Heywood, who has worked at Akers for 19 years, said retirement luncheons are “very, very tough” because of the closeness of the employees.

“You lose a family member is what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s a tough day around here.”

He won’t be working the day Hasty walks away.

He’s retiring first.

About the Author