A large brigade of Island firefighters, wearing their dress blues and standing straight and true, flanked the steps of the Old Whaling Church last Saturday afternoon, a fine May day flecked with sunshine and breezes. Joe Cressy would have called it a sailor’s day and he would have been right. Joe was right about everything — on this point there was general agreement amid laughter and tears, poetry and music at his memorial service on Saturday. The church was filled with people and memories of Joe, the unofficial mayor of Chappaquiddick who touched the lives of so many Islanders — on Chappy and off. And there were so many Joes to remember and tell stories about. Captain Joe Cressy, the Chappaquiddick firefighter. Attorney Joe Cressy with the North Shore Massachusetts accent permanently creased into his voice. Civic-minded Joe Cressy, who led the town marine advisory committee and the ongoing effort to protect the Edgartown harbor. Environmentalist Joe Cressy, who put up the first osprey pole on Chappy with Gus Ben David and who loved Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary above all other wildlife sanctuaries. Joe Cressy, the devoted husband, father and grandfather who loved and valued his family above all other things in life.

And of course, sailor Joe Cressy, at the helm of his beloved Halcyon, racing downwind with a smile so wide his cheeks disappeared.

“He is sailing on the other side of the vale as we sit here today,” the Rev. Nancy Nitzman Behr said in a eulogy on Saturday.

A man for all seasons. A renaissance man. Joe Cressy was called these things and more.

I sat in the back of the church and listened to the outpouring of wonderful memories and recalled my own memories of Joe from the early 1980s. Joe and Mary Cressy had recently moved to Chappaquiddick, where there were about 75 year-round residents. The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank had recently bought Brine’s Pond and the surrounding land from Bill Brine; the property purchase came with a gift of three acres from Bill to be used for the purpose of building a community center for Chappaquiddick.

A small group of us had formed a committee to supervise the concept and building of the center. Joe was on the committee. Meetings were held around the kitchen table at my house. We were all year-round residents of Chappy, and I remember that was our bond and it helped to guide our values as we designed the center. The center would be for all Chappy people, summer and winter, but it would be designed and built by year-round people. And I remember whenever we got off track in our discussions — sometimes decisions were hard to make and we would feel the collective weight of our responsibility — Joe would be the one to guide us back on track, unwavering and steady at the helm while the rest of us were wobbly. He was a good captain who knew how to steer the ship.

It was fun and agonizing and incredibly gratifying when the community center finally was finished. A few years after the center opened the small founders’ committee gathered to have our picture taken in front of the great stone fireplace that we had fretted over in our building plans. Joe stayed on as president of the center for a number of years, among other things invoking a new tradition of Christmas Eve dinners there, dinners that had begun at the Cressy home in the early years when Joe and Mary would invite all the winter Chappy people over on Christmas Eve and Joe would make his famous clam chowder. Edo Potter wrote about these dinners in a eulogy that was read on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the community center has turned out to be the wonderful place we all imagined, a warm and inviting family-friendly place where people gather for potluck dinners and teas and celebrations in the winter, and a long list of social activities in the summer. Exactly the kind of place Joe Cressy dreamed out loud about with our little committee around my kitchen table.

Because at heart Joe was a dreamer too.

He’s gone now and on Saturday as I sat listening to the stories, I thought about how we are losing too many of the good people on the Vineyard, people who have made so many contributions in so many different ways. People like Joe Cressy.

Who will take their place?