90-year-old fights for work

by: Diana Davis Updated:

At 15, Mel Rechtman dropped out of school to help support his family during the Great Depression. He also said he was bored with his school work.

ATLANTA - A 90-year-old Atlanta man who was laid off from his job Friday says he'll never stop working.
        

He told Channel 2’s Diana Davis he's been on the job since he dropped out of school in 10th grade.

“I have no temperament for retirement. I've got to contribute something,” said Mel Rechtman, of Decatur.

At 15, Rechtman dropped out of school to help support his family during the Great Depression. He also said he was bored with his school work.

“They were saying stuff that I had studied on my own when I was in the fourth or fifth grade,” he said.

He met and married his wife, Bettie, a few years later.  From Detroit, they moved to Camp Hill, Ala. where they opened a clothing factory.
        
“We had a payroll going of about 30 or 35 people, which ultimately grew into five plants employing 700 people,” Rechtman said.

Rechtman said he's done a range of jobs including consulting and owning a chain of nutrition stores. For the last 14 years, he's worked at the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, but budget cuts made Friday his last day.

“I was very disappointed because I love my work there. It was challenging. Every day was a new day,” he said.

But he told Davis he’s not done working. Rechtman is surfing the web for jobs, writing applications and sending along reference letters.
        
“Now I’ve got to find something equally challenging and equally interesting that will hold my attention. If I have to set up another business, I'll do that,” he said.
         
Rechtman and his wife are still married after 67 years. Though they own their own home and are debt free, Rechtman told Davis he needs to keep working.

“I’ve got to do it even if I don’t get that much money, but the money is important too,” Rechtman said. “If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s that simple.”

Rechtman is also trying to get some of his poetry published. One of his poems says in part, "Life must be distinguished from living. Life is a condition. Living is a process."