‘Kind of a calling’: Couple enjoy work with program

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 31, 2001

Robert Martello cannot believe his good fortune. After 30 years as an accountant, he has severed the ties to the pad and pen and switched to the gift of gab. &uot;Wind me up and turn me loose,&uot; he said, as he talked excitedly about his position as an assistant coordinator for the Natchez Elderhostel program. &uot;That is the thrill, getting to meet all these people who have their own stories to tell.&uot;

Martello, who worked 20 years for Armstrong Tire & Rubber and then 10 for its successor, Titan Tire, learned about the Elderhostel program by listening to his wife, Donna, who retired in 1998 as assistant dean for vocational and technical education at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez, sponsor of the Elderhostel program.

Donna had asked her Co-Lin friends who worked with Elderhostel to consider her as a staff member when she retired.

&uot;They were having so much fun, I told them I wanted to come play with them,&uot; she said, laughing.

Indeed, she received the call to come and immediately found the work exhilarating, she said.

&uot;I’m doing things I never thought I would do,&uot; she said. &uot;Robert and I both have become official city guides, and I never imagined myself standing on a bus telling people about Natchez.&uot;

Robert became interested in the program and received his first call to help in March 2000. &uot;There was a very big group, and they asked me to come to the hotel and ride on one of the buses to dinner with the group and then back to the hotel afterward,&uot; he said. &uot;I loved it.&uot;

Then the surprise came, he said. &uot;I received my first check, and I was amazed. I said, ‘you mean they’re going to pay me to have this kind of fun?’&uot;

Both Martellos say working together in the program has been a treat. Best of all, however, is what they have learned about their community in the Elderhostel process.

&uot;I’ve learned more about Natchez in the last year than I’d ever learned in all my years here, and I moved here in 1946,&uot; Robert said.

Donna said a reward for her has been to learn about so many people in Natchez who are willing to give their time and resources to make the program work.

&uot;I enjoy this,&uot; Donna said of the Elderhostel work. &uot;But Robert absolutely loves it. He is so happy doing this. It’s kind of a calling.&uot;