Retired Oak Bluffs Fire Chief Dennis Patrick Alley, known to all as “Denny,” died on Monday evening, May 30, 2016, at the Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, with three generations of his loved ones around him. He was 80 years old.
Denny, the Oak Bluffs Fire Chief for 12 years, had not been well for a long time, and was lovingly attended to at home until four years ago, when his family relinquished his care to what his wife of 61 years, Megan, described as “the wonderful, caring staff at Windermere.”
Denny, of Portuguese and Irish descent, was born to George and Elizabeth Alley on June 20, 1935, on Vineyard Avenue (Chicken Street) in Oak Bluffs, where he and his brother Kerry grew up, well watched over by the entire neighborhood, as things were in those days.
He always excelled in sports — baseball and particularly basketball in high school, and he was a scratch golfer in later life, and a charter member of Farm Neck Golf Club — and always loved hunting and scalloping. He was either outdoors or inside tinkering with something, and had an amazing success rate at fixing whatever it was.
Always good-natured, with a sense of humor which somehow managed to stay in bounds, he worked for his dad at Alley’s TV and Radio. Then he had his own business, Alley Appliance Service, but will be most remembered publicly for his firefighting identity. A grandson of another Oak Bluffs Fire Chief, Antone Alley, Denny joined the department at 18, rose to lieutenant, captain and then Chief in his total of 53 years of service. In that tradition, his eldest grandson, Marques Rivers, joined as a junior fireman at 16 and is presently in the fire department in West Tisbury, where he lives.
Denny was also a member of the Holy Name Society–Sacred Heart Parish Oak Bluffs; the Knights of Columbus; Oak Bluffs park commissioner; one of the volunteers who built the basketball court at Niantic Park; and he even helped lay the foundation for the original Nelson W. Amaral Fire Station; but beyond that, with his ever-present pipe, he will be remembered as a family man — a very happy one.
Denny first met Megan Bagley, who was born in Oak Bluffs but brought up in Vineyard Haven, through choir practice — hers, not his. Megan was in the school and Baptist Church choirs, in addition to playing the piano and cello in the all-Island symphony in 1950, but she actually met Denny when he came to pick up his then girlfriend from choir practice and give her a ride home. They were not yet a couple, but they had met.
In their 1952-53 senior year of high school, when the first choir girlfriend was history, he and Megan began to date. However, after graduation, Megan went off to the University of New Hampshire. She said she enjoyed her year, and almost went back for her second, but got engaged to Denny instead.
They married a year later, on Sept. 8, 1955, when she was 19 and he was 20, and stayed that way for the next 61 years. Among his many sides and aspects, Denny was best known as the husband of Megan (Bagley) and the father of their three kids, Dion, Mary, and Kati. In a measure of true Christian spirit, courage, and compassion, he and Megan adopted all three children, beginning with Dion in 1958.
Their daughter Mary, the next in line, quipped, “And they didn’t give us back.” Kati said, “I don’t care what anybody says, I am my father’s daughter, and if you have any doubts about that, just ask me my opinion on something.” She added that their brother has all of Denny’s fierce tenacity. And times were not easy then; Denny and Megan worked by day, and he moonlighted for Whiting Milk Co., loading ice onto the trucks at 3 am, when the kids were little.
They were the kind of knitted family that is hard to find in these times. Megan, who writes the weekly Oak Bluffs column for the Martha’s Vineyard TImes, said, “I want everyone to know that Denny loved his God, his family, and his town.”
He is survived by his brother Kerry (Pat); Denny and Megan’s three children, Dion Alley (Debra), Mary Alley, Kati Alley (David); nine grandchildren, Marques Rivers (Sarah), Matthew Rivers (Melanie), Nicholas Rivers (Melissa), Christopher Alley, Samuel Alley (Jamie), Benjamin Alley, Paige Alley, Talia Rogers (John), and Jeremy Alley-Tarter. There are also five great-grandchildren, Kayla deBettencourt, Isaiah Geddis, Michael Dickson, Ethan Rivers, and Eagan Gibson; and numerous nephews, nieces, and cousins.
Visiting hours in the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs, will be held on Thursday, June 2, from 5 to 7 pm. A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday, June 3, at 11 am in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Massasoit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. Donations in Dennis’ memory may be made to Windemere Recreational Fund, P.O. Box 1747, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, or to the Good Shepherd Parish Assessment Fund, P.O. Box 1058, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568. Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online guest book and information.