10 Country: Hartley's Fountain of Mental Youth - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Hartley's Fountain of Mental Youth

September 30, 2004

Camilla-- We've heard the old story about drinking water from the fountain of youth makes you forever young, but a Camilla man may have found a mental fountain of youth with NO drinking required.

A person gets only one shot at life, and Hartley Palmer has exceptionally good aim for a good reason. "I thought I never would be this active at this age," says Hartley, as he repairs a screen door at Camilla's garden center.

He contracts with the City of Camilla to maintain 10 of their buildings with unheard of customer service. "We're usually there within 30 minutes to an hour," says Hartley with a smile, where he fixes most anything, large or small, while realizing his limitations.

"Can mend anything but a broken heart," says Hartley as he starts nailing a piece of molding back to the door. Eighty-three- years young, he continues to challenge himself. "A lot of this is beyond me," says the handyman.

It doesn't seem that way. He makes it look so dreadfully easy. "I think I'm just an average person," says Hartley, but don't believe that. He does electrical, tile, carpentry repairs and a list of other skills.

Hartley Palmer certainly left his mark on Camilla because for 50 years he painted houses and signs. "Most of my customers are either dead or living in a retirement home or nursing home," says Hartley.

Don't expect to find him in one. "I'd be bored to tears," says Hartley, and besides that he has a reputation to maintain. "When he's around you, he brightens up your day," says Richard Bullard, who has known him for 40 years. He does something else out of the ordinary, he whistles while he works. "Most of the time when I'm whistling I don't know I'm doing it," says Hartley.

He's seen a lot in 83 years and has his opinions. He finds money gets more attention than it deserves. "Money is not so bad if you use it right, but this thing of piling it up in the back, for what? So, your kids can fight over it," asks Hartley.

He questions retirement. "What are you going to do? How do you know when you've got a day off? How do you know you are through when you retire?" Questions he has asked himself.

Hartley Palmer came from the old school where he gained practical, worldly knowledge. He doesn't have what many of what people call the conveniences of life-- no computer, no cell phone, no answering machine.

He rises at 5;00 and goes to bed at 8:15. Besides keeping 10 buildings in good repair, he enjoys antique auctions, often buying items that need repair, and that's just what he provides. Hartley Palmer started working with the City of Camilla as a contractor five years ago.

posted at 10:30AM by dave.miller@walb.com