At work: Oak Bluffs mom juggles two kids, two jobs

Andrea Dello Russo became interested in mechanics while she was in the Navy. Now she's turned it into a profession, and she's been accepted to auto tech school. — Photo by Jack Shea

At Work is about our neighbors and how they earn their livings. It doesn’t matter what the job is, whether it’s a big job or a small one, has a title or doesn’t. We’re interested in what you do every day and what you think about it. If you think your line of work is interesting, or if you’d like to suggest someone for At Work, please contact Nelson Sigelman or Whit Griswold, at The Times.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Summer and Hudson Dello Russo — seven and five, respectively — gathered around the family couch in their Oak Bluffs home as their mom, Andrea Dello Russo, talked about life and her multiple and varied careers.

Acting like they were already pretty sure they had the best Mom in the world, the kids wandered off from time to time to do important kid stuff. Ms. Dello Russo does not wander. As a single mom of two kids with two jobs, Ms. Dello Russo shows up as gentle, focused, articulate, and remarkably unfrazzled.

Ms. Dello Russo’s family moved to the Island when she was two years old. Andrea’s restaurant, the former family restaurant, was located on Main Street in Edgartown, where the Dello Russos lived. She graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1995, then from Norwich University in Vermont with a degree in English literature in 1999, courtesy of the U.S. Navy’s ROTC program.

Ensign Dello Russo served two and one half years, and then returned to spend nearly 10 years in Island farming, first at Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown, then at Whippoorwill Farm in Tisbury. This year she moved from the rich smell of the earth to the rich smell of engine oil as a full-time mechanic at McIntosh Motors in Edgartown on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.

Ms. Dello Russo also waitresses four nights a week at State Road restaurant in West Tisbury.

Tell me something about your job?

“I love the work. Bruce (McIntosh, owner) and Ken Ward are great to work with. They are supportive and very thorough guys. They have incredible patience — I ask questions all day — and give me the jobs I can handle. I sure know a lot about changing oil and replacing brakes. And I learn every day.

“I want to go to auto tech school and I’ve been accepted, but it’s an 18-month program and I’d have to commute. These guys (Summer and Hudson) will both be in the same school in September but we’ll see how it develops.”

How did you get started in this type of work?

“I’ve always had it in the back of my head, always changed my own oil, changed the brakes. The Navy experience helped. They would always begin an explanation by relating the ship engine functions to a car engine. It was better, though, because you can walk around the ship engine, trace the systems and understand the functions and relationships.

“Then at Whippoorwill Farm, I used a tractor, and I’d work on that, and the urge came back. So basically, I bugged Bruce for a couple of years. Finally my car died last summer — I was pretty sure it was the water pump — and brought it to Bruce and asked if I could watch him work on it.

“He had a different idea. ‘How about I watch you work on it,’ he said. So I thought, ‘OK. I’m going to fix my car and he’s going to offer me a job’ — and that’s what happened.”

What is the toughest part of your job?

“I have a troop of helpers, thank God, but the hardest part is making sure, after the day, that enough of the good stuff is left for my kids. They are great kids. They help me. They’ll organize a living room dance party or ask me if I did my yoga.

“At work every day is a learning experience, but it’s frustrating. I don’t want to ask so many questions, but Bruce and Ken are wonderful. They don’t make me feel stupid and that makes me feel okay about asking questions all day.”

What is the best part?

“When I can look at a car, know what needs to be done, then do it and park it in the ‘Done’ row. That feels great. I like it when my friends come up and ask me what’s wrong with their cars … and I know what’s wrong.”

What would you rather be doing when you think that you would rather be doing something else?

“Right now, this is it for me. I really want to go to mechanic school. I’m guess I’m not a lifer at anything. I am a person who likes change.”