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Betty Lee Baldwin

1923 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Betty Lee Baldwin Obituary
August 24, 1923 - October 29, 2018 OKLAHOMA CITY Female Business Pioneer Did It Her Way! Relatives, friends, and the greater Oklahoma City community mourn the loss of Betty Lee Baldwin who, at the age of 95, passed away on October 29, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Betty Lee Parrish was born in El Reno, Oklahoma to mother Ollie Marie Householder and father Ned Parrish on August 24, 1923. Betty grew up in Oklahoma City and Chickasha. After getting married, Betty moved to Enid, Oklahoma and on to Wichita, Kansas where in addition to raising two young boys, volunteered and worked part time. She settled in Bethany, Oklahoma in the early 1960s after her first husband, Oscar Lee Selling, Sr., passed away. Betty remarried to Jack Alfred Baldwin in the early 1960s and because she needed to get back in the workforce, she soon took a secretarial position with Carpenter Electric. She later sold real estate part-time and cleaned newly constructed homes to make ends meet. After several years, she made a move to Burns Electric where she ultimately became office manager. It was there, after learning much of the inner workings of the trade that Betty developed a deep desire to start her own company. With the encouragement of her friends, family and especially her mother Marie, Betty set out on her own. Without a high school diploma, in her 50s, and a child less than 12 years old at home, Betty passed the journeyman and electrical contractor exams to become the first female to be licensed in the State of Oklahoma. She had many friends in her life but none more cherished than the business associates that believed in her during those very early days of Baldwin Electric Company. Individuals like Ed Pruitt from Pruitt Supply was one such friend. She also developed great friendships with city inspectors from various municipalities throughout the state. Starting the company with less than $100 and working out of her station wagon, she built a business that would one day employ close to one hundred workers. Always looking to help others, she often provided her employees with advances on their pay when times were tough, would advance money to new hires so they could buy their hand tools, employed countless relatives and friends when they needed the work, and often kept employees on the payroll even when she didn't have any business. The opportunities she provided others was invaluable and many count those years working for Betty fondly, several going on to start their own successful businesses. Many recall Betty's innate attention to detail, long hours, positive attitude, and relationship development skills as keys to her business success. Nobody could run an adding machine 10-key like Betty.Her first project was a new home being constructed in Oklahoma City and gave Betty her start. As the years went by, countless general contractors entrusted this feisty female entrepreneur with their projects. In addition to residential construction, as the years went by, her company would perform work for the federal government, large commercial projects, and multi-family apartment buildings. She bought her first company van at an Oklahoma Natural Gas vehicle auction. She promptly had it painted yellow. As the sign painter was sketching out the company name on the side of the newly painted van, he was impressed that this was a female-owned business and suggested she add "Betty Lee" to the company name on the side of the van. She smiled approvingly and it was added to every van thereafter.With the oil bust of the late 70s and early 80s, the construction industry in Oklahoma was hit hard. Interest rates had constrained borrowing considerably and many general contractors and subcontractors had filed for bankruptcy. The economy had taken a massive toll on Betty's customers and as such had a dramatic impact on Baldwin Electric. Betty, ever the optimist, kept her business going. She had to give up her business property but against the counsel of almost everyone in town, refused to file for bankruptcy protection. Over the years and well after she wound down the business in the mid 90s, Betty paid off every single creditor. Her tenacity to do the right thing, even when it wasn't popular, was one of her most admired traits. Betty was involved in a number of business associations throughout the years including the Oklahoma Homebuilders Association.Betty took great pride of her Oklahoma upbringing and her Native American heritage. She was involved in Caddo Tribe serving on the election board for several years as well as other volunteer roles. She was preceded in death by her mother and father, brother Kenneth Barnes of Fort Worth, Texas and grandson Glen Selling of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma as well as husbands Oscar Lee Selling, Sr. and Jack Alfred Baldwin. She is survived in death by sons Oscar Lee Selling, Jr. of Oklahoma City, Michael Howard Selling of Choctaw, Oklahoma and Kevin Reed Baldwin of San Francisco, California. Sisters Charlotte Hendrickson, Shirley Harrison and Donna Piper all of Oklahoma City. Grandchildren Christopher Selling of Midwest City, Jennifer Selling Montagna of Oklahoma City, and Pierce and Rhys Baldwin of San Francisco, California as well as an abundance of great-grandchildren.On the personal side, Betty was always known for her humorous undertakings and for being late to almost everything. She often opened up her home for relatives or friends that were between jobs, relationships or just needing support. When you happened to be at her house during breakfast time, you were often treated to her legendary homemade biscuits and conversation. No matter what mood you brought to breakfast, you came away with a smile.Her last minute Friday night runs to Union Bank to get a deposit in to make payroll were nothing short of legendary. Although she was never shot at like her mother, Betty did survive a buffalo stampede, almost drowned, and escaped several car accidents throughout the years. Her entrepreneurial spirit carried on with all three of her sons and she was absolutely unwavering in her support of them in whatever business or personal situation they encountered. Regardless of what was going on in her life or theirs, she cherished every phone call or visit one of them made. She also had a very special place in her heart for her mother as well as her siblings and entire family. Our dearest Betty, you will be deeply missed by all that have had the good fortune of meeting you during your life's journey. You have fulfilled your part my dear. May you rest in peace and joy until we see you again.A Celebration of Life Memorial will be held on Thurs., Nov. 1, at 4:30pm at the Cattlemen's Steakhouse Event Center located at 1309 S. Agnew Ave. in Oklahoma City. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Betty Lee Baldwin Tribute Fund at https://alz.org/get-involved-now/other_ways_to_give/tributes https//alz.org/get-involved-now/other
Published in The Oklahoman on Oct. 31, 2018
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