Father Figures

Four local men reflect on what it means to be a father and to raise young sons in this moment in time

Nick Mele with Johnny and Archer
Photography by Nick Mele

Nick Mele, Johnny, and Archer

Photographer Nick Mele says his sons, Johnny and Archer, keep him on his toes.

“They have so much personality and character that I know they’re going to do something special with their lives,” he says of his children, aged 7 and 4. “My job is to make them the best version of themselves and help them avoid the big pitfalls of life.”

On the family’s Instagram account, @a.social.life, Mele has captured his sons at their most impish, whether they’re climbing all over the furniture, sticking their feet in each other’s hair, pouting in a pumpkin patch, or screaming with joy. Photos of his boys also feature prominently in Mele’s new book, A Newport Summer. 

Mele and his wife, Molly, join in the fun—and sometimes the frustration. After all, as he says, parenting perfection is impossible. The more you try, “the more you will screw it up.” 

“For me, being real on that Instagram account is important,” Mele adds. “So many people are out there selling this idea of constant perfection and life isn’t that way. It’s messy and it’s hard and if you can find humor in that, great. So many people want the world to think they have it all together and there’s nothing endearing about that.”

Mele’s father taught him not to worry about what other people think anyway. “I want to instill that in my children,” he says. “It’s okay not to be the same as everyone else, to be yourself, and to follow your passions.”

More than anything, Mele says he and Molly just want to raise nice people. “Johnny is wild, so we try to make sure he’s as nice as possible. You can forgive a lot if people say please and thank you.”

Jay Cashmere with Cruz

Jay Cashmere and Cruz

Honeymoons are special for a lot of reasons. For WPTV anchorman Jay Cashmere and his wife, Kelly, theirs was the source of their first child, Cruz.

“We weren’t prepared for [parenthood], but we welcomed it with open arms,” says Cashmere, whose own father raised him to look on the bright side. “Every day, parents look into the future. And I hope that when Cruz goes out into the world, he will be a responsible, loving human being.”

Fatherhood has been an amazing journey so far, says Cashmere, who enjoys watching 9-year-old Cruz swim for the Palm Beach Gardens Makos and play flag football and soccer. However, parenting a child this age is not without its challenges, Cashmere admits. Now that Cruz is old enough to watch his father on the evening news, he’s able to absorb the reality of the world he’s living in, which is not always pretty. Cashmere notes that he and his wife do their best to shield Cruz from some of the harder topics on the newscast, but the questions come anyway.

“I will be able to talk to him about some of these things at some point,” says Cashmere, who also has a 7-year-old daughter, Ella. “But right now, when he is so innocent and impressionable, you have to find a balance between preserving that and letting them grow up. And kids are growing up so fast today.”

In the meantime, Cashmere cherishes every moment. “Cruz and I throw the football on the beach, and I look at him and watch him grow. There will come a day when he won’t want to hold my hand and spend time with me. I’m just trying to absorb it all now by making memories like this. It all goes by so quickly, but our bond will always be there.”

Gopal Rajegowda with SunilGopal Rajegowda and Sunil

Gopal Rajegowda and Sunil

Gopal Rajegowda says he has done a lot of things in his life, but none of them are as amazing as being a first-time father to his son, Sunil.

“When I found out my wife and I were bringing a new life into the world, I was overjoyed,” says Rajegowda, a partner in Related Companies Southeast, the real estate developer behind local projects such as The Square neighborhood and 360 Rosemary. “Watching Sunil grow has been so fascinating. He has gone from being a little baby to being able to laugh and smile and recognize me.”

For Rajegowda, parenting a 10-month-old is full of simple pleasures, from seeing Sunil wake up every day and smile, to watching him crawl and learning how much he loves cantaloupe. 

“The older we get, the more we lose touch with the days when everything seems new and your curiosity is in overdrive,” he says. “Being a father makes you cherish and realize the things you don’t pay attention to anymore and shows you that there are so many ways to see things. When you see things differently, you can make the world a better place.”

Like his father before him, Rajegowda aspires to be a role model for his son, setting a good example of what it means to be a man, and a successful one at that. And as a member of the mayor’s task force for racial and ethnic equality, Rajegowda plans to demonstrate to his son the importance of inclusivity and diversity.

“I think a lot about teaching him to be an empathetic global citizen,” he says. “Coming out of COVID, we have learned that the power of human connection is important. I think my child will embrace that as he is able to interact with others throughout his life.” 

Andrew Filauro enjoys playtime in the backyard of his West Palm Beach home with son John, 1, and daughter Clara, 4.
Andrew Filauro enjoys playtime in the backyard of his West Palm Beach home with son John, 1, and daughter Clara, 4.

Andrew Filauro and John

One-year-old John Filauro loves playing with balls. He probably comes by it honestly. After all, his father, Andrew, used to play Division 1 soccer at West Point.

“My father used to tell me that he would support whatever I wanted to do as long as I gave it 100 percent,” says Filauro, managing director at Green Square Capital Advisors. “Now that I’m a father, I want to be open-minded to whatever John wants to do, as long as he works hard, too.” 

Right now, John works hard at throwing balls back and forth with his dad. He can seemingly spot them from a mile away. He’s walking, too, so it probably won’t be long before he’s running after those balls just like his father used to do in college.

“He also loves to read,” says Filauro, who has a 4-year-old daughter, Clara, as well. “I’ll read him books, and he’ll pick up on certain things I say and point them out [on the page].”

Filauro is looking forward to the moment when he can have a full-fledged conversation with his son—his daughter already has that sort of bond with her mother—and for John to be able to tell him what’s on his mind or ask for advice. For now, father and son bond over bedtime stories and nonstop play.

“He will do a lot of great things if he puts his mind to something that will benefit the world,” Filauro says. “I hope he grows up to be someone who stands up for what he believes in and is kind to other people. I hope he also realizes how fortunate he is to have two parents there to support him, and that he shouldn’t be afraid to use us as resources.” 

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