Everett Poole, a man of few but essential words who personified a way of life on the Menemsha waterfront and presided as Chilmark town moderator for 45 years, died Monday, Feb. 21 at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his wife Dianne, who said he was surrounded by family at the end.

“He was conscious and at peace and not in pain of any kind,” she said.

Mr. Poole grew up in Chilmark and came to represent his town in all areas of democracy, from the town meeting floor gavel in hand, to the waterfront as proprietor of Poole’s Fish Market, fillet knife in hand.

In the early days as Chilmark town moderator. — Alison Shaw

In an interview with the Gazette he once compared the two jobs, keeping democracy in line to that of a captain at sea.

“When whaleships left the country, when they got outside the three-mile limit, the skipper would call everybody aft, and he would instruct the mates on their duty. And he would tell the crew, there’s one more thing to remember boys: when you see me in town, I’m Mr. So-and-So. But when we’re on this ship and out here beyond this three-mile limit, I’m God almighty.”

As a kid growing up in Chilmark, Mr. Poole established a paper route, delivering the New Bedford Standard and the Cape Cod Standard. To earn more money he headed out to fish with his father, but as he told the Gazette the two didn’t get along at sea.

“The old man threw me off the boat in the middle of July,” Mr. Poole recalled in the interview. “I couldn’t get a job anywhere by then. I had to do something. Either that or there would be no ice cream the rest of the summer.”

He began peddling fish, working as a middleman between the fishermen and his customers, going door to door with a small box packed with ice and fish. After high school he studied engineering and business in college, graduating from the University of Rhode Island.

Mr. Poole opened Poole's fish market in 1944. — Peter Simon

During college summers he continued his fish business and opened Poole's Fish Market on Menemsha Harbor in 1944. The shop remained open until 2005 when the Larsen family purchased the business.

In 1976 he stepped into his role as Chilmark town moderator, a position he held until 2021, making him the longest serving town moderator the Vineyard has ever seen.

In an interview when Mr. Poole stepped down, Chilmark select board chairman at the time Bill Rossi took note of his long tenure.

“I’ve never known anyone as moderator other than Everett and he has such a commanding presence up there in town meeting, he’s one of the most effective moderators I’ve ever witnessed,” Mr. Rossi said.

In an interview with the Gazette, Mr. Poole described his job as moderator this way: “The moderator is not supposed to talk. All he has to do is keep people on the subject, which is not easy sometimes.”

A festive red mask is a bright spot during Covid town meeting season. — Ray Ewing

He continued: “I let them talk, but I don’t let them get off subject. You have got to let them have their say. You have got to let them get it out. And you have to let someone else prove them wrong.”

After selling Poole’s Fish Market, Mr. Poole continued to run the Chilmark Chandlery, a store specializing in just about any item fishermen, from professional to preschooler, might need for a day on the water. He continued to preside over Menemsha matters small and large to the end. His wife noted that he still went to the store routinely, and was available even when he wasn’t there.

“He had a sign on the door that said anybody need anything give me a call at home,” she said. “He was constantly positive and strong for everyone.”