pursues goal in air and sea
When Sheryl Jones
Suescun Brakey ’69 (biology) was a kid
growing up on a dairy farm in Holland Patent, N.Y., she made
a list of things she wanted to do in her life.
|Sheryl Jones Suescun Brakey ’69
“I wanted to
learn to fly a plane, parachute jump, scuba dive and ride a horse
really well,” she says. “Well, I guess I still don’t
ride very well.”
To say she realized
her childhood dreams would be a colossal understatement. Brakey
has managed to turn adventure into a lifestyle. It’s
quite a story.
She began her studies
at RIT as a medical technology major. She married in 1967,
changed her major to biology and had a baby by the time she
graduated. She lived in South America for a time, had another
child, returned to the states, was chief medical technologist
at a major hospital in Dallas and then became a medical supplies
Meanwhile, she learned
to fly. She loved it but couldn’t afford it. Then
her instructor suggested she participate in a competition for women that
judged overall proficiency. She won. The resulting publicity
caught the attention of Texas Instruments, which was promoting
a calculator that could be used for navigation. The company
asked her to use the device in another race. She won.
after more success in the air, Brakey was named most proficient
pilot in the country. “That really opened some doors
for me in aviation.”
Brakey went to work
for the marketing division of Alcor, a San Antonio company
that makes aircraft instruments, then became the first woman
sales representative for Narco Avionics. Ultimately, she became
a rep for Bell Helicopters, selling and flying helicopters
that started at $1 million. In 1988 she was named salesman
of the year.
In 1989, feeling “really
burned out,” she
moved back to San Antonio and took a job as vice president
of marketing for a small computer company. When the company
closed, she joined Mooney Aircraft Corp. as director of marketing.
Meanwhile, Brakey earned an MBA at Our Lady of the Lake University
in San Antonio, and later, a master’s degree in international
relations from St. Mary’s
University in San Antonio.
Her son introduced
her to scuba diving and she took to the water with the same
zeal that launched her as a pilot. On her second date with
Bob Brakey, she took him for an introductory dive. He liked
it, she liked him and they married in 1991. The senior vice
president for a large insurance company, Bob, then 53, was
planning to retire in two years.
“In the meantime,
I met a Peace Corps recruiter,” Sheryl says. “I
came home and said, ‘Honey, you know how you said you
wanted to travel and get someone else to pay for it?’ ”
Bob retired, the couple signed up and spent two years in
Chile, helping mom and pop businesses. The Peace Corps experience
allowed them to see most of South America. Since then, there’s
been more travel, including many diving expeditions.
again, Brakey’s pastime has evolved into a business.
She started making underwater videos and entering them
in contests. She started winning, including first place
in the 2001 International Underwater Malaysia and the 2002
Beneath the Sea Dive and Travel Exposition competitions.
In 2003, Acquario Civico in Milan, Italy, gave Brakey a
special award for her video “Once Upon a
Two years ago, she
formed SjB Productions (www.sjbproductions.com) to market her
growing selection of dive and travel videos. The Brakeys have
visited 63 countries since 1991 and still haven’t slaked
their wanderlust. Trips planned for 2004 include Australia
to film underwater the leafy sea dragon in mating season, and
South Africa and Botswana.
“I think I’ve always
been an adventurer,” says Brakey. “It’s
a desire to learn about the world and share it with others.
My kids are used to this, and now my husband is my greatest
supporter. The conservative insurance man has become an adventurer,