NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Dede Robertson, the 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. The statement did not provide her cause of death.
Robertson became a born-again Christian several months after her husband found his faith. The couple, who met at Yale University in 1952, embarked on a journey that included living in a roach-infested commune in New York before Pat Robertson bought a tiny television station in Virginia that would become the Christian Broadcasting Network.
He later ran for president of the United States in 1988, with his wife campaigning by his side.
“Mom was the glue that held the Robertson family together,“ said Gordon Robertson, one of her four children, and the president and CEO of CBN. “She was always working behind the scenes. If it weren’t for Mom, there wouldn’t be a CBN.”
Adelia “Dede” Elmer was born in Columbus, Ohio, to middle-class Catholic Republicans. She got her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State and a master’s in nursing from Yale.
Robertson’s future husband was the son of a Southern Baptist, Democratic U.S. senator. Eighteen months after meeting, they ran off to be 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 out their liquor, tearing a nude print off the wall and declaring he had found the Lord.
They moved into 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 go back to Ohio, “but I realized that was not what the Lord would have me do … I had promised to stay, so I did.”
Pat Robertson later heard God tell him to buy the small TV station in Portsmouth, Virginia, which would become a global religious broadcasting network. He ran the network’s flagship program, the “700 Club,” for half a century before stepping down last fall.
In her autobiography, Robertson recalled bridling at staying at home and her husband’s refusal to help around the house.
“I was a Northerner, and Northern men just generally help around the house a little more,” she said. “I noticed the further south we moved, the less he did.”
Her attitude changed after she had her own born-again experience at a church service, she told The AP. “I began to see how important what he was doing really was.”
Robertson said that women should not work outside the home while their children are young unless they must. She reared her kids and worked as a nursing professor after they went to school.
She had represented the U.S. on the Inter-American Commission of Women, which was established to ensure recognition of women’s human rights. She also served on the board of Regent University, which her husband founded.
Pat Robertson said in a statement that his wife “was a woman of great faith, a champion of the gospel, and a remarkable servant of Christ who has left an indelible print on all that she set her hand to during her extraordinary life.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION