Pat and Rhonda Askins

Pat and Rhonda Askins of Calera.


I want to tell you about my nephew, Patrick Askins. He’s my late sister’s youngest child, and by “youngest,” I’m talking 52. We spent our Thanksgiving holiday together and he told me the best story. You’ve got to hear this.

Patrick — or Pat, as he prefers to be called — never met a stranger. That’s a tired old cliché, I know, but he’s one of the most outgoing guys you could ever meet.

Take the time he and his wife, Rhonda, went on a cruise. After going through the boarding process and the demonstrations on what to do in case of an emergency, Rhonda wanted to go to their cabin and get settled.

Not Pat. He wanted to go to the lounge.

The two parted company for a bit and later on, Pat went to fetch his wife so they could head poolside. As the two walked along, looking for a couple of empty deck chairs, Rhonda heard someone shout “Hey, Pat!”

Pat waved and returned the greeting and then there was another one. “Yo, Pat!” and Pat responded with a wave, and on and on it went with shouts of “Pat!” from all over the place.

Rhonda looked at her husband and laughed. “What can I say?” Pat asked, with an exaggerated shrug of his shoulders. “I’m a popular guy.”

Pat and Rhonda live in Calera, south of Birmingham, but he commuted to Pell City each day, working as a project manager for a company that sells and installs ginormous water tanks to big industries. He called me one day after having lunch with one of his more valued clients, a man with whom he had a long-time working relationship.

On that particular day, after lunch, they were just shooting the bull when the other guy mentioned something about his church in Anniston: Sacred Heart.

Pat immediately perked up. “You go to Sacred Heart?” he asked. “My aunt and uncle go to Sacred Heart. Tim and Donna Barton.”

At that, the man cocked his head to one side and knitted his eyebrows together. “I thought he was trying to place you,” Pat said.

Instead, the man said, “They’re two of our closest friends!”

Turns out, it was Dan Myers, from Kronospan, and it’s true. We are close friends. Tim and I have known Dan and his wife, Judy, for years. In fact, they’re godparents to Laney, our middle grandchild — Pat’s own cousin!

(Don’t you just love small-world stories?)

A few weeks ago, Pat arrived at work on a Friday morning, just like any other workday. No sooner did he walk through the door when he was hit with something he sure didn’t see coming.

Termination of employment.

“We’re phasing out your job,” he was told. “Effective immediately.” He was handed a generous severance package, but that didn’t make up for being blindsided.

He went out to his truck and just sat there, stunned. As he headed home to Calera, he used the long drive to think things over.

Once he recovered from the shock, he got down to business. He put out the word to friends that he was suddenly out of a job and if anyone heard of any openings, to keep him in mind.

He received an immediate call from a friend named Tim. “Don’t do anything until you talk to Scott,” Tim said. “He’s on vacation and will call you as soon as he gets back.”

Scott is the owner of a construction company, headquartered out of Arkansas, that Pat has contracted with several times over the years. The two men got to know each other well while working on a variety of projects.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Scott said, when he made contact with Pat. “But just last month, my wife and I were sitting around the table, talking with Tim about our workload. My wife looked at me and said, “You’ve got to hire a project manager.’”

Scott agreed with his wife’s assessment. He looked over at Tim and said, “Help me find a project manager.” Then he added, “Help me find a Pat Askins.”

And with that, my nephew Pat has a brand-new job.

One of the best parts of the deal is that his office is the first bedroom on the left: a home office. “I went from a 52-minute commute to a 52-second commute,” he joked.

It’s been said that when one door closes, another one opens. For my nephew Pat, truer words were never spoken.

Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at