Virginia Poole of Chilmark, 73, died peacefully in her sleep at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital on Wednesday, March 5, after a long illness.
She was born Sept. 22, 1934, in Rahway, N.J., to John Fedor Jr. and Mildred Whitman Fedor, and grew up in Linden, N.J., a suburb of New York City. She attended Bates College in Lewiston, Me., majoring in English, where she starred in theatrical productions including Shaw's St. Joan, Shakespeare's Portia, and Sabrina. She won the New England Trophy for oral interpretation, and was named to the Bates College Key, an honorary association for alumnae that recognizes their overall contributions to life at the college.
Jini, as she was known to her many friends, had recently graduated from Bates in the Class of 1956 when she met her future husband, Everett Poole of Chilmark, at the wedding of mutual friends. A courtship followed during the next year (which Jini spent teaching high school in Medfield), and they were married on May 25, 1957.
Jini Poole had been to the Island only once, on a youth hostel trip, before settling with Everett in Chilmark. Recalled her husband: "An old-time Chilmarker came to me in the fish market one day, after our engagement was announced, and he said, 'You know, Everett, I've been giving this a lot of thought, and I've met your wife-to-be, and I like her. And I want you to know, I think it's a good idea that you're bringing some fresh blood into the town.'"
Jini Poole's warmth and outgoing nature were indomitable, and she threw herself into community life, and soon had many friends. Recalled one longtime friend, Jane Slater, "Jini was born an actress, but it was not at all an ego thing. She had this unique sense of humor - you knew, when you saw her coming toward you, that she'd have some sort of original line. She'd be smiling, and you just knew she was going to say something that would make both of you laugh."
Added Mrs. Slater, "She fit into the whole Chilmark scene so well, with her casual outlook. She was much more interested in people than in dress and appearances. And most of all, you always sensed a lot of love from Jini - she was very affectionate."
She was active in her community from the beginning, and the arts were a particular passion. Jini organized, directed and performed in variety shows that raised funds for Martha's Vineyard Community Services in the agency's early days. She specialized in church pageants around the Christmas holidays, sometimes running as many as three pageants in a single season at different churches.
She cofounded a professional puppetry company with Judy McConnell, the Parapetite Puppets, which gave public performances, mainly on the Island. And she was active in the Vineyard Players, a summer theatre organized by Duncan Ross, who later became director of the theatre program at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
Mr. Ross recalled this week that Jini's involvement with the Vineyard Players was just the beginning of their friendship. "I would have to say that Jini was instrumental in talking to school committee people about the need for a theatre program at the high school," he said. "She had a real love for the theatre, and I recall that when we first started the theatre program at the high school, she donated a whole bunch of scripts that she had gathered over the years."
And in a personal note that highlighted one of her signature traits - her generosity - Mr. Ross recalled: "When my wife, Ann, and I got married, it was here on the Island in her parents' living room, on the day after Thanksgiving. And Jini and Everett gave us their house in Chilmark for our brief weekend honeymoon."
Mr. Ross concluded: "She was an outgoing, loving person, one who cared a great deal about the community - and when I say that I mean the Island as a whole, not just Edgartown or Chilmark. She was a lover of the arts. And she was absolutely thrilled, as I was, when her daughter Kate [Murray] was selected to pick up where I left off, when I retired."
Jini was an assistant casting director, finding Island talent for the Steven Spielberg crew that filmed Jaws in 1974. Actor Roy Scheider was so grateful when she found a stand-in for him that he kissed her on Main Street. Jini appears in several scenes of the movie wearing a green dress and sunglasses.
She was a charter member of the Island Community Chorus, and took great joy from her work in the alto section of the choir. Jini was dedicated to doing everything she undertook to the best of her ability. This week the Chorus announced that when it sings Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio, Elijah, on April 13, it will dedicate the performance to her memory.
Jini's love of learning was life-long, and she went back to college as an adult, earning a degree in business communication from Bentley College in 1982. She put her communication skills to work for many years for the Vineyard Gazette, starting out with the Vineyard Guide both in advertising and as its manager, then writing for the paper as a social columnist and ultimately working as a full-time reporter. Here again, her love of people and flair for the arts were reflected in many feature stories and reviews of concerts and theatre.
Jini had a large social network in Chilmark, and built another in Edgartown beginning in the 1960s, when she and Everett bought a winter place there so their children could attend kindergarten because Chilmark had none at the time.
In addition to her family, friends, and the worlds of performing arts and work, Jini also involved herself actively with Hospice of Martha's Vineyard. She served two terms on the organization's board of directors, and for many years volunteered for Hospice as its director of publicity. She served as a volunteer reading tutor for six years in the Tisbury and Chilmark elementary schools. And when her daughter attended Walnut Hill Performing Arts School in Natick, Jini organized a parents group that continues to this day.
Her spirit in the face of Parkinson's disease in the last years of her life will be remembered by all who knew her. Recalled Jane Slater: "I remember Jini at her last Christmas parties of the Gazette staff, and she'd be up dancing. She was just having a good time."
Virginia Poole is survived by her husband Everett Henry Poole; daughter Joan Cottle Poole Nash and her husband, Thomas Howland Nash; daughter Katharine Poole Murray and her husband, Robert Lindley Murray II; son Donald Fedor Poole; a sister, Joan Fedor Marcille Maine and her husband, William Maine; grandchildren Amy Howland Nash, Thomas Everett Nash and Katharine Hollister Nash; and many nieces and nephews.
A graveside service will be held at Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilmark, with the Rev. Robert D. Edmunds and the Rev. Teresa Payne Gocha officiating, at 11 am on Thursday, March 13. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial donations be made to two of Jini's favorite organizations: The Island Community Chorus, P.O. Box 4157, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, and Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.