When Jackie Tuttle accepted an invitation to become secretary to the Shelter Island Board of Fire Commissioners 25 years ago, she didn’t know it was a paid job. She was accustomed to being a community volunteer; it never occurred to her that she would be paid for any of her efforts.
On July 22, Ms. Tuttle let the commissioners know that it’s time for her to enjoy her retirement. She agreed to stay on for six months to help select and train a replacement for the job that pays $8,400 a year. Ms. Tuttle doesn’t recall what the pay was when she started 25 years ago.
But Commission Chairman Andy Steinmuller insisted he wasn’t accepting the resignation. Commissioner Richard Surozenski, when confronted the following day by Ms. Tuttle’s husband, Maurice “Tut” Tuttle, who said, “I hear you’re getting a new secretary,” responded “no.”
Nonetheless, the commissioners are realistic and will be looking to Ms. Tuttle to assist in their selection of a replacement.
“I’ve thought about it,” she told the Reporter in a telephone interview after the meeting. But she hasn’t yet zeroed in on a candidate yet.
“It’s just time to have someone younger come on and be trained,” she said. “Not that I can’t still do the job,” she added.
“It’s nice to be needed. I’ve been at it longer than any of the commissioners.” She estimates that she has seen 25 commissioners come and go through the years while being the unacknowledged historian of the district.
“They all would come and go and I was there,” Ms. Tuttle said.
Volunteering has always come naturally to her. And just a partial list of her giving nature includes being registrar and a board member for the Shelter Island 10K and president of the 10K Community Fund. She’s a member of the session and superintendent of the Sunday School program at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church. She has been an active member of the Garden Club where she is a past president and was named Lions Club Citizen of the Year in 1991.
Ms. Tuttle extended her volunteering to her adopted community of Indiantown, Florida, where she and Tut spend four months each winter. She teaches a class at the Baptist church there. She also has been the long-time organizer of semi-annual reunions for her Simmons College Class of 1955. It was that effort that won her the Simmons Golden Shark Award in 2005. In 2010, Simmons presented her with its Alumnae Service Award.
Prior to her retirement in 1995, Ms. Tuttle taught home economics, first in Southampton, then Sag Harbor and on Shelter Island for BOCES.
The couple has long hosted an annual barbecue in Florida for the Navy shipmates who served with Mr. Tuttle aboard the U.S.S. Furse in the 1950s, and other Navy personnel in the area. Ms. Tuttle also organizes annual reunions for her husband’s shipmates all over the country and edited a reunion book. But that’s an activity that she gave up awhile back.
Ever the organizer, Ms. Tuttle has a Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends in St. Martins where the couple spends every November.
Hints of Ms. Tuttle’s impending retirement from the Board of Commissioners came in May when she and her husband decided it was time to “get a little less involved” so they could travel more.
She’ll still continue with other activities on Shelter Island and the will continue to summer here.
“I always have trouble leaving places,” she said. When it’s time to head to Florida, she doesn’t want to leave Shelter Island and when it’s time to return, she doesn’t want to leave Florida, she admitted. But she can’t envision a time when she would opt for one or the other because in both communities, she and Tut have become the center of extended families.
Still, Ms. Tuttle has observed changes on Shelter Island — not all for the better. The traffic is heavier and people tend to be “more clique-y” than they were years ago, she said. When she first came here, she knew everyone on the Island, even the summer people who intermingled with the year-rounders. But now most summer residents tend to stay to themselves or mix with others who have come from wherever they came from, she said.
“The world is busier and people don’t make the time out here for new friends,” she said.
While Mr. Tuttle is a harelegger, Jackie is a descendent of East End families — the Raynors, Squires and Pells — who settled on the North Fork in the 17th century. Tut was a South Ferry captain when they first met, but their schedules weren’t meshing, so after 10 years, he left the ferry service to work for Herricks Hardware in Southampton while she taught in Southampton.
They considered moving there, but their daughter Jill was in the first grade and they decided she would get more individual attention in the Shelter Island School District. Looking back, she believes that was the best decision since Jill got a great education here and became class salutatorian. She went on to Wheaton College in Massachusetts, eventually settling outside of Boston with her three children.
But visits to Jill and the grandchildren aren’t during the summer, Ms. Tuttle said.
“We never leave in the summer,” Ms. Tuttle said about Shelter Island.