In the middle-of-nowhere Wake Forest stands the house that Ted Jay built.
My brother lives in Wake Forest, and I thought he lived way out there. You get on Highway 98, turn left on Ghoston, another left on New Light, a few confusing twists and turns after that, and youll find my brother and his family. Jays house is much, much farther.
Its his retirement project. He used to be an engineering consultant in Pennsylvania, but when he began approaching retirement, he decided to find a nice place to settle down. He spent six months looking at different places and analyzing them according to the categories he was interested in: climate, cost of living, etc.
North Carolina kept popping up number one in most categories, Jay said.
So, during a break from work, Jay came down and found just the lot he wanted as I mentioned, in the middle of nowhere. He decided he wanted to build his own house. And not only that, he wanted to actually do the inside trim work all himself.
He bartered with the lot owner until they decided on a fair price, and in 2007, Jay bought the land.
Then he started the task of finding a contractor who was willing to complete 90 percent of the house but leave the detail work to him. Finally, he found a man working out of Sanford.
Then the problems started.
Jay had to keep working in Pennsylvania while construction began. He came out in 2009 to check on the progress of the house, which should have been getting close to completion. It was far from it.
It had failed its first inspection, and the electrical work still hadnt been completed by the contractor.
I got pretty ticked off, and I hired my own electrician to finish the job, Jay said.
Then, prior to the final required inspection before connecting electrical power to the house, somebody broke in.
They came in here and cut all the wiring, Jay said. It looked like spaghetti coming out.
They also stole flooring, tools and parts for the stairs. Jay calls it a disaster.
By this time, Jays job was done in Pennsylvania, and he had come down to North Carolina full time.
He waited for the insurance money from the break-in to come through, and it seemed to be taking forever. And then, just before the cash arrived, the house was broken into again, and the air conditioning units were stolen.
I decided I had to protect the house, he said. So I moved upstairs and lived here with no electricity.
Some extension lines from the power pole outside ran a fan, a television and a small refrigerator. For July, August and September, those were the only creature comforts he had, along with a baseball bat in case anyone tried anything.
Eventually, Jay got some air conditioning units, and he hired another electrician to rewire the whole house. Then, one day, while he was picking up the stonework for his fireplace, his house was broken into again. Not much was stolen, just some tools, but eight of his windows were shot out with a BB gun.
Inspired by dad
That was the last hurdle for a while. In 2009, the house was basically done except for the detail work he planned on doing himself. He got his certificate of occupancy, moved in and started working on the wood trim.
Hed never done anything like it before, but he knew he could, because his dad had once done something similar. On Jays wall is a newspaper article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in 1966. It details the home that Jays father built in Indiana.
He had a lot tougher situation than I did, Jay said, because when he built this house, he was in his 50s, he had four kids, a full-time job, and my mother was very sick. Every minute of his time was spent working on that house.
Jays mother had a rare disease that killed her in 1960. She had lived in the house only three years. During her sickness, Jay and his brother helped their dad as best they could, but Jay was 12, so there was only so much he could do.
He held us together, Jay said of his dad. And we helped him the best we could.
Jays house is mostly complete, though he is still working on the trim work, constructing his own furniture out of his woodshop in the garage and putting on the last-minute touches.
To me, retirement, this is what its all about, he said. Ive had so much fun doing this. Using my imagination. Doing things Ive never done before. Ive made mistakes and had to do some redos, but thats okay.
And whenever he gets frustrated, he walks over to the wall and reads the newspaper article about his dad.
This is my inspiration that really kept me going through the tough times, he said.
And hopefully, those tough times are now behind him.
Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at email@example.com.