The west-facing bench near the corner of South Summer and Main in Edgartown has fairly humble surroundings, situated adjacent to a small, slightly worn parking lot that hosts a few spaces for cars and the dumpster for the ice cream store on the corner. The view across the street is of another parking lot and the crumbling building once known as the Yellow House whose owners apparently can’t be bothered to care for anymore, despite its front row seat on Main street in one of the prettiest villages in all of New England. In the old days, a bank of pay telephones hung on the wall above the bench.

The pay phones are gone now, and so is Robert J. Carroll, the son of Edgartown who grew from humble beginnings to self-made man at a young age in this town that he loved. Bob Carroll held court on this bench for decades, usually seated alongside his friend and sidekick Geno Courtney. Other men sit on the bench too and sometimes even an occasional woman, but mostly it’s a man’s domain. It’s easy to imagine that important decisions were made here, perhaps in violation of the open meeting law; Bob Carroll naturally would have relished that and had a thing or two to say about the open meeting law itself, all of it unprintable. But in truth this was mostly a place where Mr. Carroll liked to sit on warm afternoons as the sun cast long shadows across the brick sidewalks, watching women float by in their summer dresses while he enjoyed an ice cream cone.

This was his bench and this was his town, a place he surveyed constantly with pride and a critical eye. He was a businessman: owner of the Seafood Shanty with its singing cocktail waitresses and salty, oily smells floating in from the town harbor on hot summer nights, of the Kelley House, the more staid downtown hotel and restaurant where at one time he ate dinner nearly every night in the winter months, and of the Harbor View Hotel, the sprawling grande dame overlooking the Edgartown Lighthouse where summer guests used to stay for a month at a time, eating their meals on the American plan. He was a politician: staunch Democrat in a town full of Republicans, selectman with a blunt, freewheeling style who knew how to get things done, crusading archenemy of the late editor and publisher of this newspaper whom he viewed as a bleeding heart and an elitist. He was a father: to four daughters by his first wife Lucille and also to literally hundreds of men and women that he helped give a start in life and in business, and to whom he was affectionately known as the Old Man. Mr. Carroll loved the moniker, just like he loved to swear out of the side of his mouth, the more off-color and politically incorrect the better.

He got away with it mainly because he was a man who knew who he was and even his enemies — and he had his share of them — had to respect that. With Bob Carroll, you always knew where you stood.

The comments that poured onto the Gazette website this week following the news of Mr. Carroll’s death are a small window into the profound influence he had on Edgartown, and the Island. There will be many more on Saturday when a celebration of his life is held at the Harbor View Hotel, the place where he lived out his later years in the penthouse atop the old hotel, long since refurbished under new owners.

As for the bench at the corner of South Summer and Main, it will continue to be occupied, certainly by Geno and others, but from now on there will also be an empty space, a reminder of an era that has passed.