Everett Poole, the well-known Chilmark native who served as the Martha’s Vineyard community’s town moderator for over four decades before stepping down last year at the age of 90, died last week at the age of 91, his family confirmed Monday.
“He loved singing,” said Poole’s daughter, Joan Poole-Nash, in a phone interview. “He had more godchildren than anybody else. Everyone wanted him to be their [child’s] godfather. He was a really great guy, and he did a whole lot for his town. But also, he was interested in everything.”
In addition to serving as town moderator - a job that involves running the annual Town Meeting proceedings - he also served as member of Chilmark’s Board of Selectmen in the 1970s and on a local conservation committee, Poole-Nash said.
“A lot of people have been reporting he was a man of few words, which is not true,” she said. “He was a man of many words,” and if he gave someone the silent treatment, “that meant he was trying to get rid of you. ... He had a lot to say.”
Poole-Nash recalled one cocktail party on the island when her father told the historian David McCullough how much he enjoyed his books. When McCullough asked how Poole, who started work at 3:30 a.m. each day, found time to read, Poole replied that he cracked McCullough’s books in the predawn hours when he woke up.
At another party the following week, Poole-Nash said, McCullough took her father by the arm and brought him over to some other attendees, telling them grandly, “this man gets up at 3:30 in the morning to read my books.”
Poole owned a fish market on the island for more than 50 years, said his other daughter, Katharine Poole, who added that her father as an adolescent hoped to follow in his dad’s footsteps as a lobsterman. But when he returned from his first lobstering trip at sea with his father as a 13-year-old, Katharine Poole said, his father told him bluntly, “we can’t work together.”
Undaunted, Everett Poole “got a baby carriage [and] started peddling fish from the boats,” Katharine Poole said. “He would buy it from the boats and then he would sell it to customers, and that’s how the fish market started.”
He later earned a business degree from the University of Rhode Island and also served in the US Coast Guard, according to Katharine Poole.
“My dad was one in a gazillion,” she said. “He was a tough guy too. Very clear and direct, but he was a really kind person too.”
Everett Poole, who also owned a gas station in town for a period, had reflected on the history of Town Meeting in Chilmark in a 2018 column from the Boston Globe’s Thomas Farragher, recalling times as a child when he sat in the front row of the proceedings, which deal with often-fraught local matters including budget items.
“In those days, the Town Meeting was held in the morning,’’ Everett Poole told Farragher. “The teacher used to march us all over there and we had seats reserved in the front. It was the best entertainment in town. I can remember an old man standing up and talking for what seemed to me like half an hour, arguing about spending 50 cents for a new baseball for the school. Yup. I remember it well.’’
Poole was predeceased by his first wife, Virginia Fedor Poole, who died in 2008. He is survived by his current wife, Dianne, as well as his three children, Poole-Nash, Katharine Poole, and a son, Donald Poole. Poole-Nash said the family in the short term is planning a small, private service owing to the pandemic but will also have a larger outdoor public memorial at some point in the spring.