81-Year-Old Not Too Old To Learn

Most of us think of Fourth of July as a day to relax and have fun in the sun. However, some South Mississippians are choosing hammers and nails over barbecue grills and fireworks this holiday. Among those making hurricane repairs on Tuesday was Ike Fortiner of Gulfport. The senior citizen is proving that you're never too old to learn.

Hurricane Katrina turned the retired car salesman into an on-the-job general contractor. Volunteers gutted his Ruth Avenue rental property. Since then, he's made almost all the repairs.

"I did everything," said Fortiner. "I put all the walls in, the ceilings, the floor, the cabinets back in the other room. It was stripped down all the way to the studs. Everything that you see that's in here, I've done it."

By doing the work himself, Fortiner believes he's saving money and avoiding hassle.

"People who I had do something for me, they messed me up. They ran off. One thing after another. I said, 'If I put up with this, I'd just go do it myself.'"

He says without a lot of building expertise, doing it himself has been a challenge. Fortiner says he's relied mostly on trial and error.

"It takes me a lot longer to do something than it takes most people to do because I have to stop and figure it out, if I hadn't done it before. But I hang in there. Sometimes I mess up, but I start over again. "

While figuring out how to make some repairs has slowed Fortiner down some, the 81-year-old says his age hasn't been an issue.

"Never been bothered really. I've been blessed with good health. I feel like I'm about 50-years-old, I guess," he laughed.

Ike Fortiner says he started repairs two months after Katrina and now is almost finished with the home's interior. Next, he plans to work on the home next door, which he also owns.