When Brett Surerus and his wife, Kelly, moved from Brooklyn back to his hometown of Shelter Island, he knew he’d be giving up many of the benefits and conveniences that come with a vibrant city life.
But he also knew he would gain something much greater in return — time to be a father.
The Surerus’s son, Jackson, was born in October 2013 while the couple still lived in Brooklyn. By the following April, however, they were officially Island residents.
“In the city, I had a job as a commercial banker and Kelly was a nurse in Manhasset,” Brett explained.
“We had a 640-square-foot apartment. We were paying through the nose for it and it was getting more expensive.”
The location was a third floor walk-up in Park Slope. And there were two dogs.
“We’d still travel out here every weekend and stay with Kelly’s mom or my mom,” Brett said. “So we both knew it would be an eventual fit.”
The family’s arrival on the Island coincided with the arrival of daughter, Piper, now a 1-year old, and a career change for Brett.
“I transitioned to property management from banking,” explained Brett, who oversees large residential properties for Bridgehampton-based Hamptons Property Services. “I love the work and I love what I’m doing. It gives me flexibility.”
That flexibility was on full display recently when Brett left work early in order to surprise Jackson by picking him up at preschool.
“I told my bosses what I was doing and they said, ‘Go do it,’” he recalled. “Jackson was sitting in the circle when I got there. He yelled ‘Papa’ and raced right over to me and gave me a hug.”
That’s exactly the sort of experience that has clearly made the move back to the Island the right one for Brett and Kelly, who was a summer kid on Shelter Island and now works at Southampton Hospital. In addition, the couple find they are able to spend far more time together as a family than they used to, with dinner at the beach being one favorite event.
Now that they are here, the Sureruses have also become active in the life of the local community. Last year, when the Chamber of Commerce announced it was canceling the Fourth of July fireworks due to the expense, the couple jumped in and helped form Shelter Island Fireworks, Inc., a non-profit organization that raised the $40,000 needed for the show to go on and is looking to do the same again this year.
For the Sureuses, getting involved in the local community was always a given.“We both like to improve where we are for the better,” Brett said. “The fireworks was fortuitous. It came upon us. I never missed one my entire life and when I heard it was canceled, it was not an option to not get involved.”
The Sureruses also serve on the board of the Shelter Island Preschool, and with the Shelter Island School adding a prekindergarten program next fall, they are currently working to ensure the preschool will survive by serving primarily children 3 and under.
“We’re fighting to keep it viable for the future,” Brett said. “That’s a work in progress. I went to that preschool and I work with great people on that board.”
Brett also serves as treasurer on the board of the Island Gift of Life Foundation, which helps local families cover costs of certain medical procedures and travel expenses related to treatment.
“There are so many people here who do things — the ambulance, Lions Club, fire department,” he said.
“I’m not skilled enough to be a member of the fire department, but if this is what I can do, it’s good.” “We have a nice circle of friends who are just as involved as we are in different charities,” Brett added.
While he is happy both in his new job and with the commitments he has made to various non-profit groups around the Island, fatherhood continues to be the defining motivation in his life.
“It pretty much means everything,” Brett explained. “I don’t think anyone can prepare you for how overwhelmingly in love you are with your kids. Until you experience it, you won’t get it.
At this point in my life, I’m willing to do anything for them.”
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” he added. “It’s the greatest job I’ve had in my life and my favorite thing. Living here with my family, I consider myself the luckiest guy around.”
This will be a special Father’s Day weekend for Kelly and Brett. They will mark their sixth wedding anniversary and have plans to spend Father’s Day at the Ram’s Head Inn, enjoying a cocktail while the kids run around and play on the grounds.
They will feel right at home.
The 2016 fireworks are Saturday, July 9 at 9 p.m at Crescent Beach. A fundraising cocktail party will take place Friday, June 17 at Sunset Beach at 6 p.m. For details, shelter islandfireworks.com, facebook.com/Sifireworks or Gofundme.com/sifireworks.