Labor of love: Gatlinburg man rebuilding his home by hand


GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – A Gatlinburg man is rebuilding his home with his own two hands after it was destroyed in the November wildfires. He lives on Wiley Oakley Drive, one of the hardest hit areas that night. Right now, he says he has no plans of bringing in a professional to help out.

“It was really important for me to get this cleaned off because it was sad,” said Dean Cato.

Starting new is how he is healing. He said having something to do is important to him. He got to work as soon as residents were let back into the city. His brother came from Texas to help out. He is living in a camper with Cato’s teenage son.

“He rode with us out of here that night during the fire but he is going to see us come out of here like a phoenix,” said Cato.

They are rising from the ashes with no experience in building a home. However, that is not stopped Cato.

“You can’t get it back but you can find a little excitement and well, we get to make something new again,” said Cato.

His new home will be made of wood from the burnt trees surrounding his property. He said just because something is torn up on the outside, it doesn’t mean the inside is not beautiful. It’s a lesson he learned as a recovering alcoholic.

The Great Smoky Mountains is a place full of memories not just for him, but also for his family. Cato’s 4-year-old daughter still doesn’t know this is what’s left of their home.

“As a parent, I just don’t even know how to begin that conversation,” said Cato.

He is hoping to spend Christmas here this year which is something his family couldn’t do last December.

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