At age 95, Ira “Red” Cornett still gets to work at his machine shop every day promptly at 9 a.m.
His wheelchair keeps Red from working as he once did, but he pitches in by instructing employees.
He considers fixing machinery a God-given gift.
“If you break it, I can fix it,” he says. “That’s my talent.”
Red started Cornett Machine Shop in 1947, the year he moved from London to Somerset with his wife, Mary. The couple raised two sons and two daughters.
Red’s business actually involves two shops. Workers make and repair bearings and crankshafts on engines in cars, trucks and farm machinery at one. At the other shop, internationally known Cornett Racing, workers build dirt-track racing engines.
At some point, Red, Mary, and all their children have worked at the shops. Sons David, 64, and Jack, 54, now manage the shops.
Red instilled a strong work ethic in his children.
“He’s hardworking,” Jack says. “He was raised in the Depression, and if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat.”
Jack, who manages the race shop, won a national award for engine-building fourth years in a row.
“Mom and dad took me to the races,” says Jack. “I got bit by the bug. It’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Red’s wife is bedridden with Alzheimer’s. Red goes home daily to have lunch with her and pray.
“They have a 70-year love affair that will never end,” says one of Mary’s caretakers, Donna Keith 52, of Somerset. “He refuses to give up on her and he never will. It is inspiring.”
After more than 60 years in business, the community knows Red well.
“Everywhere we go, everyone just has some story telling us how he has helped them,” says his daughter, Arlene Warner. “It’s been a great legacy.”
Yet at 95, Red dismisses talk of retirement.
“I ain’t finished all my work yet,” he says.