Dennis daRosa, the longtime vice president and co-owner of daRosa’s Martha’s Vineyard Printing Company in Oak Bluffs, died August 20 after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 71.
Oak Bluffs has no mayor but if there was an election, Dennis would likely have won by a landslide.
He was a fixture at the upper end of Circuit avenue all his life, since he first began learning the printing trade from his father, Antonio.
Born and raised in Oak Bluffs, Dennis excelled at baseball, football, academics and printing. The former were his loves. The latter became a passion he learned at the side of his father, his mother Cecilia, his older brother Tony and his sister Cindy. In the back shop at 46 Circuit avenue, he learned to set type, fix machinery and run a potential finger-crushing machine dubbed The Kluge. Purchased by his father in 1950, a year after Dennis’s birth, it was the first printing machine on the Island with an automatic paper feeder. It sped up the printing process markedly, but if you didn’t hit the hand brake at the right moment it could flatten fingers. Perhaps that’s how Dennis became a flame-throwing Little League pitcher and a sleight-of-hand high school quarterback.
When it came time to choose a college, the printer’s son naturally accepted the best printed offer. As the story goes, his acceptance from the University of Massachusetts came as a computer-generated letter, while the Babson College acceptance came on an engraved card. Dennis chose Babson.
His life took a turn in 1969, when early in his junior year in college his father died unexpectedly. The family business was in safe hands with his brother and mother in charge, so Dennis returned to Babson but with an eye toward returning to the Island after graduation.
His plan was to marry his high school sweetheart, Candy Cullen, and help his family’s business grow. He succeeded famously at both, marrying in 1971 and formulating a plan to expand the business to include supplying copiers, computers, payroll systems and printing services Islandwide.
The business grew to the point where Tony served as company president and ran the printing operation while Dennis headed up the office supply and sales division. His family expanded just as rapidly; daughter Stephanie was born in 1975 and son Philip in 1978. Both ultimately chose to make the Vineyard their home as well.
Dennis was the pied piper of office supplies, spending much of his time selling, servicing and delivering equipment, supplies and good cheer around the Island. It was a job he enjoyed because he loved people. His jocular manner could win over even the most harried businessperson, and his endless well of patience allowed him to smile at even the most irksomely demanding customer.
His sense of civic duty and loyalty to Oak Bluffs were well known. Along with Renee Balter he helped grow the Oak Bluffs Association into a unique and effective organization. In 1991 they launched Harborfest and set up the information booth at the bottom of Circuit avenue. The association also took over and grew the end-of-season Tivoli Day celebration that had originally been created by Bill and Margaret Stafursky as a bike race in the late 1970s. Dennis was president of the association for decades, and derived much joy and excitement from organizing the booths and working with shopkeepers, restaurateurs, vendors and musicians to make Tivoli Day a huge success.
He served on the board of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and the Vineyard Open Land Foundation, and recently joined with like-minded friends and colleagues to form Vineyard FutureWorks.
He loved travel, boating, football, music, reading and learning, but what he loved most was time with family and friends, the ability to meet the needs of his customers, and the chance to make a difference in his community. He cherished his home in Chilmark that he created with his wife Candy, and loved hosting parties, never failing to warmly welcome anyone and everyone who found their way to his door. No one loved a party more than Dennis.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, his two children and their partners, Ann Quigley and James Bohan; a granddaughter Iyla Grace Bohan, a brother Tony daRosa and his wife Melanie; a sister Lucinda daRosa Barrett, and many nieces and nephews.
Services will be private, but one humdinger of a party will be held to celebrate his life when the pandemic allows.
Donations can be made to Vineyard FutureWorks, P.O. Box 1554, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.