Christopher S. Look Jr., the former longtime Dukes County Sheriff who served five terms and represented an era on the Vineyard that is rapidly disappearing from living memory, died on Wednesday this week in Florida after a brief period of ill health. He was 82.

Huck Look, as he was known to most, was appointed sheriff by Gov. Francis Sargent in 1971 and retired from office in 1998. He was a Republican sheriff with many Democratic allies in a county that began as a GOP stronghold but by the end of his time in office had changed its party affiliation largely to Democrats and independents.

Far more quietly he was known for the bit part he played on the night in July 1969 when the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy drove his car off the Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick. Deputy sheriff Huck Look, who was living on Chappy at the time, was out on the road that night and passed a car that matched the description of the one Senator Kennedy was driving and was discovered the next morning sunk off the Dike Bridge. Mr. Look was later questioned by a grand jury. Although he had little to add to what was already known, his role would become the subject of much mystery and speculation as the infamous accident put Chappaquiddick on the world map, much to the dismay of the people who lived there.

Christopher Stetson Look Jr. was born on April 22, 1928, in Oak Bluffs to C. Stetson and Agatha Look, one of six children. He grew up in Edgartown and also lived for a time in West Tisbury.

He attended Edgartown schools, leaving high school two years before graduation to enroll in the Merchant Marine. In June 1948 at the age of 20 he earned local hero status when he saved a seven-year-old boy who had fallen off Memorial Wharf into the chilly tidal waters of the Edgartown Harbor. The life-saving incident was reported in the Gazette and would be recalled again many years later when he was appointed sheriff.

In 1951 he was drafted into the Army. He served in Korea and among other things during his time in the army he completed his requirements to obtain a high school diploma. In a 1951 letter to the Gazette while he was in the service, Mr. Look showed his colors as a native Islander. Writing from Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was stationed, he wrote: “The weather here is almost like the Island weather. There is a lake here on the fort so I can still get to go swimming. Of course the water will never ever compare to that of the Island.”

He was discharged in 1953 and returned home to the Island. In 1954 he married Marjorie Searle of Edgartown whom he had known since childhood. They married in secret in Falls Church, Va.; five months later friends in Edgartown threw a gala bridal shower for Mrs. Look and the Gazette carried an account. The Looks had five children and lived in Edgartown, buying the Wannamaker house on the West Tisbury Road which would remain their home for many decades.

Mr. Look worked for the Wells Oil Company, and in 1963 he bought the company, which he owned until 1992 when he sold it to R.M. Packer Co. His other business interests included ownership of a service station in town, the former Deitz and Meekins Garage on Main street Edgartown, which he bought in 1971 and renamed Look’s Texaco Service.

In 1971 he also embarked on his political career when Gov. Francis W. Sargent appointed him to fill the post left vacant by retiring sheriff John Palmeira. Mr. Look ran for the office in 1972 and won and was relected for four more terms after that.

A large man, Huck Look had an imposing presence but a gentle nature and his law enforcement philosophy was one of rehabilitation rather than incarceration. He cut a colorful figure on the opening day of superior court in Edgartown dressed in the traditional ceremonial garb of white tails and top hat. His portrait hangs in the Edgartown courthouse today alongside the portraits of judges and sheriffs through the years. “He really was a true public servant and he was always good to people,” said superior court clerk Joseph E. Sollitto Jr. this week. “I am a little at a loss for words; he was a friend.”

In 1989 Sheriff Look became briefly embroiled in a state controversy when it came to light that the Massachusetts Maritime Academy had been engaged in the practice of taking guests on board its taxpayer-funded training ship The Patriot during a winter cruise through the Caribbean. Mr. Look and his wife were among the guests. The scandal played out for weeks in The Boston Globe; at home Mr. Look hotly defended his role and blasted the Globe for reporting that he had been issued seaman’s documents specially for the cruise. “I have had my seaman’s papers since I was 17,” Mr. Look told the Gazette. And it was true, he had. The incident also ignited a fire under the four-term sheriff, who had been contemplating retirement, to seek a fifth term.

He did run again in 1992 and faced a lively challenge from former state police trooper Daniel Flynn. It was a contentious race and marked the first time Sheriff Look had seen a serious challenge. He proved up to the task, running a hard-fought campaign on his record of achievements including bringing many thousands of dollars in state and federal money onto the Island for law enforcement initiatives. Boosted by endorsements from heavy hitters that included a group of other sheriffs from around the commonwealth and the late Cong. Gerry E. Studds — all Democrats — the Republican sheriff won reelection, sweeping every Island town. The Gazette reported the outcome as a surprise, but Sheriff Look said he took away a different message. “I think the voters approve of all the things I’m doing. They don’t want another police department. They want us to rehabilitate people and help people,” he told the newspaper.

In 1998 he retired. He was succeeded by his nephew, Michael McCormack, who remains sheriff today. In 1999 in a quiet ceremony that included the hanging of his portrait at the Edgartown courthouse, Mr. Look was formally recognized for his 27 years of service. In retirement he lived quietly in Edgartown and in Dania Beach, Fla., where he and his wife have owned a winter home since 1964.

“He took care of everybody — he was a good, humble man. His family was everything to him,” said his wife Marjorie Look, speaking to the Gazette from their home in Florida following his death this week. “He loved the job of being sheriff — the jail, the work, he loved everything about it. And he was very patriotic and loved his country.”

In addition to his wife of 57 years he is survived by his children, Diana Butynski and her husband John, Joyce Look, and Christopher S. Look 3rd and his wife Leslie, all of Edgartown; three sisters, Leslie Look Carroll, Barbara Look Lee and Estey Teller; a brother, Peter Look and his wife Phyllis Brown; and eight grandchildren. He was predeceased by a sister, Nancy Look McCormack; and two sons, David Look, who died in a car accident in 1996, and William L. Look, also known as Huck, who died of cancer in 2003.

A memorial service is being planned and will be announced in the Gazette.