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Cook County morgue employee finally calls it quits at 90, says he was driven out

Investigator for the Cook County Medical Examiners Office Virgil Poole 86yrs. drives north on Halsted after a stop at the Paradise Garden Funeral Home in Chicago,Il., Wednesday, March 14th, 2007. jm031407 poole6/photocx (Daily Southtown Photo By Joseph P. Meier)

At 84, he got hired by an old Chicago Police colleague to investigate deaths for the Cook County Medical Examiner, but his duties were limited by his age and abilities.

At 86, he was fired after a newspaper investigation revealed he lied about his driver’s license, but rehired on an arbitration judge’s order.

Now on the cusp of 91, Virgil M. Poole has retired from his $36,000-a-yearjob on the county payroll.

The former Chicago Police officer and Harvey chief of police finished work Monday after submitting a letter announcing plans to retire, said Dr. Nancy Jones, Cook County’s medical examiner.

Reached at his Glenwood home, Poole said he was pushed out. People in the office, he said, had wanted him gone for years.

“The new president came along with her brilliant ideas and she got some guy to come around, and anybody who had a job they didn’t need, they got rid of them,” Poole said of Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “They fired a lot of people.”

But the Tuskegee Airman acknowledged he was ready to go.

“I’ve got health. I’ll be 91 in a month so what the hell?”

Poole was hired in October 2005 by his longtime colleague from the Chicago Police Department, retired Chicago Police Supt. LeRoy Martin, who was serving as chief of investigations for the medical examiner.

Martin also served as public safety director of the Chicago Housing Authority while Poole ran a private security firm there.

Unlike the other morgue investigators, Poole did not go out to accident sites or murder scenes. He examined bodies at funeral homes to ensure there were no signs of foul play.

But in early 2007, the then-Daily Southtown showed Poole driving around haphazardly on county business in a battered silver Kia, even though he lacked a valid driver’s license.

He had caused car accidents on the job and on his way to work at the Stein Institute, 2121 W. Harrison St. One of the crashes in 2006 landed him and a 69-year-old man in the hospital.

He was fired, but got his job reinstated in 2008 after his union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, filed a grievance saying Poole, 87, was wrongly terminated.

An arbitration judge agreed, and the county had to pay him half the money and benefits he would have earned since April 2007, and send him back to work.

Only this time, he stayed in the office, answering phones and filling out death certificates.