Dennis daRosa, my longest-time friend in life, died last week. We were born three weeks apart in 1949, and have been the best of buddies since our earliest memories. We were both children of Oak Bluffs. My father had his doctor’s office on lower Circuit avenue and Dennis’s family had their store, daRosa’s, in the same location as it stands now. We were elementary school classmates and Little League teammates. From early childhood, we did everything together.

We both appreciated how lucky we were to be from Oak Bluffs. We were close to our parents and our families, and we looked up to the parents of other neighborhood children. It was the best of small-town America, with leading citizens like Roger and Estelle Surprenant, Howard and Marjorie Leonard, Bill and Mary Thomas, and numerous others looking out for us.

Circuit avenue had several of the same stores then as it has today — run by the parents of our schoolmates: Reliable Market, operated by Bobby Pacheco’s parents; Giordano’s Restaurant, with Willy Giordano at the helm; and the Red and White Store, where our classmate Alfred Noyes’s father was the butcher. There was Phillips Hardware, the Corner Drugstore, the Fruit Market, a dry-cleaning establishment, several restaurants (including Munroe’s, Irene’s Restaurant, Frosty Cottage and Gerry’s Coffee Shop). Oak Bluffs had The Flying Horses, two movie theatres, a bank, the post office, two candy stores, and a barber shop. In other words, the town had everything a child needed.

Dennis and I would ride our bikes to school in the morning, then ride them home again for lunch. When we started elementary school, in what is now the town hall, the Oak Bluffs High School was located across the street, in the building now owned by the Catholic Church. When we got our report cards, Dennis and I would go to Our Market and Amos Sylvia would reward us with Fudgsicles. We both went to Albert the Barber (Albert Soares) on Circuit avenue. It was a wonderful place to grow up — and we knew it.

Dennis was a great athlete and an outstanding Little League player. If the Baseball Hall of Fame was based on performance in Little League, Dennis could have been in it. He was the star of our team, as was his brother Tony before him. At the time, there were three Little League teams: the Oak Bluffs Red Sox, the Tisbury Tigers and the Edgartown Braves. Tisbury was always a tough opponent, but as best I can recall, Oak Bluffs won the championship every year. Dennis and I talked about one game almost every time we got together over the years — I walked twice, and each time Dennis hit a home run to drive me in. We won that game 4 to 3.

The Little League field was located where the ballfield is today — across the street from Sen. Edward W. Brooke’s house. Parents would park their cars around the field and honk their horns when someone scored or there was a home run.

We had a close-knit group of friends, and a number of our classmates (from our class of 14) remained on the Island: Alfred Noyes, Bernadette Rebello (now Crossland), Kathy Davis (now Sollitto), and Roberta Fontaine (now Hearn). Dennis was quarterback of the high school football team. After college at Babson, he returned to the Island, married Candy, his high school sweetheart, and went to work at daRosa’s. He became a leading citizen in the Oak Bluffs business community, serving as head of the Oak Bluffs Business Association for years.

His pride was in his family. He was a loving husband and a doting father and grandfather. He was so proud of his children, Stephanie and Phil. He was a caring in-law to Candy’s parents and sister Blue, a wonderful son to his parents, and a great uncle and sibling. And he was best friend to so many people that it’s hard to count.

We had a virtual Zoom birthday party for Dennis last month. Even amidst his battle with cancer, Dennis was the same person as he was at three years old: mischievous, fun, loyal, upbeat. He had the best outlook on life of anyone that I know. His presence alone could brighten your day.

Dennis truly was an all-around great person. In losing him, the Vineyard has lost someone wonderful.

Ron Rappaport is an Edgartown attorney who lives in Chilmark.