NORFOLK, Va. – Dede Robertson, wife of religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and a founding board member of the Christian Broadcasting Network, died Tuesday at her home in Virginia Beach, the network said in a statement.
Robertson was 94 years old. The statement did not provide a cause of her death.
Robertson became a born-again Christian a few months after her husband found his faith. The couple met at Yale University in 1952, beginning a journey that included living in a cockroach-infested New York commune before Pat Robertson bought a small television station in Virginia to become the Christian Broadcasting Network.
He then ran for president of the United States in 1988, with his wife campaigning alongside him.
“Mother is the glue that holds the Robertson family together,” said Gordon Robertson, one of her four children and president and chief executive officer of CBN. “She was always working behind the scenes. Without the mother, there would be no CBN.”
Adelia “Dede” Elmer was born in Columbus, Ohio, to a Republican middle class Catholic. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State and a master’s degree in nursing from Yale.
Robertson’s future husband was the son of a US Democratic congressman who was a Southern Baptist. Eighteen months after meeting, they were married by a justice of the peace, knowing that neither family would approve.
Robertson’s husband was interested in politics until he found religion, she told The Associated Press in 1987. He stunned her by pouring their wine, tearing up a nude painting on the wall and claiming that he found God.
They moved to the commune in Bedford-Stuyvesant because Robertson said God had told him to sell all his possessions and minister to the poor. Robertson told the AP she was tempted to return to Ohio, “but I realized that’s not what God was going to ask me to do… I promised to stay, so I did.”
Pat Robertson then heard God tell him to buy a small television station in Portsmouth, Virginia, which would become a global religious broadcasting network. He ran the network’s flagship program, “The 700 Club”, for the last half century stepped down last fall.
In her autobiography, Robertson recalls being at home and her husband refusing to help with household chores.
“I’m a northerner, and northern men usually do a little bit more housework,” she said. “I noticed that the further south we moved, the less he went.”
She told the AP that her attitude changed after she had her own reincarnation experience at a church service. “I’m starting to see how important what he’s doing really is.”
Robertson says women shouldn’t work outside when their children are young, unless they have to. She raised her kids and worked as a nursing professor after they went to school.
She has represented the United States on the Inter-American Commission on Women, established to ensure recognition of women’s human rights. She also serves on the board of trustees of Regent University, founded by her husband.
Pat Robertson said in a statement that his wife “was a woman of great faith, an advocate of the gospel, and a revered servant of Christ who left an indelible mark on the everything she laid her hands on during her extraordinary life.”