James Alley, a lifelong Islander and well known figure on the Vineyard, died late Tuesday in West Tisbury surrounded by his family after a long battle with cancer. He was 81 and had lived in West Tisbury all his life.

Businessman, real estate broker, seller of new and used cars, horse farmer, former West Tisbury postmaster and town selectman, Jimmy Alley, as he was known, had many varied interests. His first job in the car business was selling new cars for Al West who had a car dealership at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. His brother John Alley recalled that Jimmy used to take clients for test drives in new cars down the airport runway. “You could do that then,” Mr. Alley said. Decades later, after a career that included civil service and real estate and a stint owning a horse farm, James Alley returned to the car business and sold used cars from a corner lot at the Woodlawn Garden Center in Vineyard Haven.

He grew up in West Tisbury, a member of the family that owned Alley’s General Store, the famed Dealers in Almost Everything and today a landmark in the West Tisbury town center that still operates as a general store. Along with other family members, one of Jimmy Alley’s many jobs was working at Alley’s Store.

At their meeting Wednesday, the West Tisbury selectmen held a moment of silence.

Selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd remembered working at the general store with Jimmy Alley, and called him a character. “He always had a wise word of wisdom for whatever the event may be,” Mr. Manter said.

“I particularly remember his sense of humor, it was just great,” selectman Richard Knabel said. “We offer our condolences to the Alley family.”

A full obituary will appear in the Friday Gazette.