John S. Alley, West Tisbury historian, justice of the peace, county commissioner and former longtime selectman, died suddenly at home Wednesday after sufffering a heart attack. He was 78.

For 27 years he was a town selectman, and he had been a longtime partial owner of Alley’s General Store, where in recent years he had been in charge of mail distribution at the postal station at Alley’s. He was the longtime Gazette West Tisbury columnist. But perhaps his most familiar role was as a longtime justice of the peace — wearing his signature top hat, he had married countless numbers of couples on Martha’s Vineyard over the years.

He had just returned from a brief stay at Massachusetts General Hospital, and had sent his last town column from there on Tuesday.

Recollections can be sent to Anna Alley at

Funeral arrangements are incomplete, and under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs.