Russell J. Haskins, a former executive for Sony Pictures Entertainment and DirecTV who most recently worked in California as a real estate broker, died Friday, Jan. 24, at his home in Philadelphia from complications of cancer. His death came two days before his 60th birthday.
Mr. Haskins was the second of two sons born to Yvonne and Walter Booker Jr. in Philadelphia. After his mother divorced Booker and married Harold Haskins, the new couple legally changed their sons’ last names to Haskins. Later, they added a daughter to the family.
Mr. Haskins grew up in West Mount Airy and attended Germantown High School. But he dropped out during his senior year “because he was bored,” said Yvonne Haskins, a lawyer and founding member of Germantown United Community Development Corp.
A few years later, after working jobs in banking and in the city’s Commerce Department, Mr. Haskins earned his GED and eventually enrolled at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1989. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1992.
Afterward, he worked for a number of corporations, including American Express, and in the cable, satellite, and motion picture industries.
His LinkedIn profile said he had been a director of business development for Sony Pictures Entertainment and an executive at DirecTV. For a couple years, he also taught marketing at a women’s college in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
His mother said Mr. Haskins loved the outdoors. He ran marathons, loved to hike and bike, and was also a “Black Diamond”-level skier, meaning he was skilled enough to ski the steepest and most difficult slopes. She said he skied often in Canada and out West.
When her son was living in Dubai, she said, he visited several countries in Asia, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and India. She took one trip with him to India, where she watched him walk up to strangers and engage with them easily.
“Russell loved life and he loved people,” Yvonne Haskins said. “He could connect with people so well.”
After living in Dubai, he came back to the United States and wound up in California, where he studied to become a real estate broker.
While living in California, Mr. Haskins developed chronic liver disease. He became so ill that in 2015, his parents convinced him to return to Philadelphia to await a liver transplant.
Last December, however, Mr. Haskins was diagnosed with a lymphoma of the throat and underwent a tracheotomy. He died from complications related to his breathing tube.
Eric Hartsfield, a retired Philadelphia School District educator, was a childhood friend. He recalled how he and Mr. Haskins began running together when they were about 15 years old.
After Mr. Haskins returned to the city five years ago, they rekindled their friendship and started running again until a few months before his death, he said.
“We ran some and we walked some,” Hartsfield said. The two were also chess players.
Hartsfield said Mr. Haskins was optimistic about overcoming his health problems.
“He was a genuinely good person, caring and compassionate,” Hartsfield said. “I loved hearing about his adventures from his travels.”
In addition to his trips throughout Asia, his mother said, Mr. Haskins traveled to Egypt, South Africa, Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil.
Douglas Jenkins, another childhood friend, said Mr. Haskins lived life on his own terms. He was independent and believed in self-determination.
“He was a very strong personality. He was a very intelligent, bright person," said Jenkins, a lawyer. “He didn’t try to pander to the expectations of others.”
In addition to his mother and stepfather, Mr. Haskins is survived by a sister and other relatives.