A couple of years ago, Thomas Ellingburg of Cookeville decided that 32 years of driving a truck for a living was enough.
“Sleeping in a different city every day was getting old,” he said. “I just wanted a new experience and to be able to have a home life.”
Still, he had to find some way to make a living, but at 54 years old, he wasn’t sure what that might be.
“The administrative people at Fortis are really the ones that changed everything,” he said. “They gave me a rundown of what all the programs were about, and I got to speak with the instructors.”
Ellingburg decided to pursue the study of heating and air conditioning systems (HVAC), going back to school for the first time in more than 30 years.
“At first, I was afraid,” he admits. “I didn’t know it would be like.”
He gives much of the credit for his success to instructor Ron Moyer.
“He was my mentor throughout the whole process,” he said. “At 54, it was kind of a struggle, at times, with the homework and stuff, but the people there got me through it.”
Ellingburg was so impressed with the program that he invited his 24-year-old son, Aaron, to visit one of the classes.
“I was a diesel mechanic down in Mississippi, and I got tired of getting dirty every day, going to the same place, doing the same thing,” Aaron said. “I moved up here, and Dad was in the program. He just told me to come and look at it.”
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