Legendary Chilmark moderator Everett Poole dies at 91

Poole was ‘our lighthouse and our mooring and our rock.’ 


Updated 2:35 pm 

Menemsha stalwart Everett Poole, who served as Chilmark town moderator for 45 years, died peacefully on Monday. He was 91 years old.

Poole’s wife Dianne Poole confirmed his death, and said he was surrounded by family. “He loved this whole Island and everybody here,” she said. “He was able to die at home.”

Poole was a Chilmark man through and through, having grown up on land that his seafaring family held for more than 350 years.

He took up the town moderator job in 1976, telling The Times in 2017 he took the job out of a sense of civic obligation. The gavel was a perk.

“The town needed a moderator, and nobody else wanted the job, and somebody had to do it,” he said in a Times interview. “I like slamming the gavel down and telling people they’re out of line … I only ever had one person come after me trying to hit me on the head. It’s generally noncombative. And it’s nice not being involved in politics — as moderator, I can’t take a stand on anything.”

Poole only recently handed off his role as moderator to Janet Weidner.

Poole was the owner of Poole’s Fish Market, a powerhouse wholesale and retail fish market that at one time held a “virtual monopoly” on the Menemsha seafood scene, notably in lobsters. Poole opened the fish market in 1944, and sold the business to the Larsen family in 2005.

After leaving the fish market business, Poole focused on his other venture, the Chilmark Chandlery, a marine supply and ship equipment store on Basin Road.

Before both those gigs, Poole ran the Menemsha Texaco gas station.

“We’re losing many people on the Island who were emblematic of its character,” Chilmark select board chair Jim Malkin said. “Everett Poole is a prime example. He was a mentor to many, an inspiration to many, and a symbol of essential Chilmark character. He was thoughtful, considerate, stubborn, and extremely protective of our town. Guiding the town, he served as moderator for so many years, as well as selectman, harbormaster, harbor advisory committee member, manager at the gas station, and as the iconic Menemsha fishmonger at Poole’s Fish Market. He watched the town’s transformation from his bicycle as a child delivering groceries to the new summer people, and then as a respected elder offering advice and guidance as the town evolved. He will be missed sorely. He was a wonderful godfather for me, and I miss him terribly.” 

Chilmark harbormaster Ryan Rossi said Poole embodied the spirit of Menemsha. “I was deeply saddened by the news of Everett’s passing,” Rossi emailed. “Things will not be the same without him. When I would go to Everett for advice, which was quite often, I could count on him to tell me the truth whether I liked it or not. I will miss our weekly chats at the chandlery, and I am thankful for having the opportunity to know him and call him my friend.”

Former merchant marine Ralph Packer told The Times Poole, his longtime friend, graduated from the Coast Guard’s officer candidate school and served four years. The Coast Guard wanted Poole to be trained in electronics. 

“He didn’t know the first thing about electronics,” Packer said while laughing. “He applied for officer candidate school, and made it.” Poole eventually went on to serve on cutters in Florida and Massachusetts.

Chilmark select board member Bill Rossi said he’s known Poole since the early ’70s.“Everett was an iconic figure in Chilmark, Up-Island, and the Island in general,” he said. “People of his generation really represent what Chilmark and Menemsha are all about. Our hearts go out to his family.”

Menemsha resident Debbie Packer said many on the Island would feel the loss. “I know that hearts are broken all over the Island and all over Chilmark,” she said.

She described Poole as “our lighthouse and our mooring and our rock.”


Rich Saltzberg contributed to this report.


  1. Worked for Everett in my first job 45 years ago. I knew his Dad and his son, both. Godspeed to a great man and a character who will never be replaced.

  2. Everett was all the things people said, but I have to wonder about his opening up the fish store in Menemsha when he was 13 or 14, which is how old he was in 1944. At least he must have had some help.

  3. I met Everett in 1976 when he gave a job shucking scallops.
    Over the past 30 years I got to know him as a friend and someone I could get sound advice from.
    Going shopping at his chandlery was something I did several times a year. many of those times I really did not need anything, I just wanted to spend sometime with him and chat.
    I asked him to tell me about the hurricanes and how it affected Chilmark and Gay Head.
    He also told me stories about his time in the Coast Guard.
    Everett embodied the character and core of Marthas Vineyard to me.
    Even though I knew his passing was imminent, today I am very sad that he is gone. I miss him a lot already.
    My condolences go out to his family.
    RIP Everett

  4. So sad to lose one who epitomized the best of what the Vineyard was. I hope enough have been influenced by him to carry the ball forward.

  5. People like Everertt Poole will not be replaced on the island. His passing is symbolic of the slow death of the island.

  6. I am a better person from knowing Everett. I learned a lot from knowing him and more from watching and reading about him.My thoughts are with the Poole family,the town of Chilmark,Menemsha and Marthas Vineyard. We have lost a best friend in a time of need

  7. Dave Flanders was helping us find a place so the three of us went down to Basin Road to meet with Everett Poole. “I’m seventy now,” Everett said, turning to Dave. “I’m gonna need some decent rent. I’m not feeling great and I don’t know how long I’m gonna last.” “Oh, of course,” Dave said, chuckling. “We’ll work something out.” After years in corporate jobs, we were thinking about launching a business on the island. Eventually Renee would bring Everett fresh-squeezed lemonade slushies, which he loved. I took care of the grounds like they were my own, which Everett loved. 20 years passed. “John, I’m still vertical!” he shouted from his little blue truck just last spring. Hardy, endearing, salty at times, Everett seemed timeless and endured mighty well. But alas the bell tolls.

    We will miss him.

    John and Renee

  8. Among his many accomplishments, he helped to hone the skills of future surgeons who learned to expertly fillet while working at Poole’s. Menemsha will not be the same without him.

  9. I knew Everett abd his family from the early1970’s.I enjoyed knowing his wife ‘GINNY” and I taught his son Donald swimming.Hitch hiking back then Everett’s father picked me up and I said I was leaving the Island as the summer ended. He said ‘” Oh you are going back to America !”He knew that the Vineyard was unique and wonderful ! Farewell and God Speed to a true Vineyard Icon ….and I was fortunate to know a few of them! H . Vail Barrett

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