A statement given to reporters who went to the Robinsons’ home at 9 am yesterday read: “Mrs Patricia Robinson, the wife of former prime minister Honourable Arthur NR Robinson passed away in her sleep this morning at the family residence in Ellerslie Park. A former public servant, Mrs Robinson, 79, has been ailing from Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes for several years. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.”
Former protocol officer at President’s House Napier Pillai, who gave the statement to reporters said, “They (Robinson family) are still in a state of shock. However Mr Robinson is in good spirits.”
On a personal note, Pillai said: “She was an incredible woman. Respected for her economics.” Relatives who visited the former president yesterday said Robinson has been speaking at length about the day he first met Patricia.
Velma Jardine, a close friend and former schoolmate of Patricia at St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of- Spain, recalled how Patricia first saw her husband one day as they walked down Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain. Jardine remembered Patricia saying: “Who is that? I am going to marry him.”
Dr Ralph Doyle, who delivered Patricia’s children Ann Margaret and David, said: “I met the lady who would later become Mrs Robinson at Upper Bengal Street (St James) some years before she met Mr Robinson. We became close friends. I think her main contribution would have been in the field of economics and in her public service which she performed to a high level.”
Relatives and close friends were expected to gather last night at the Robinsons’ home for prayers. David Robinson lives in Toronto and will be returning home for his mother’s funeral.
Zalayhar Hassanali, the wife of deceased former president Noor Hassanali, said Patricia “was a brilliant economist and a lovely person. I was very fond of her.”
Hassanali said she and her late husband became acquainted with the Robinson family when they lived in Tobago. Robinson succeeded Noor Hassanali as president in 1997.
During Robinson’s tenure as president from 1997 to 2003, Patricia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and she gradually withdrew from the public eye.
In a statement, President George Maxwell Richards said he and his wife Jean were saddened to learn about Patricia’s death.
“An outstanding daughter of the soil, Patricia Robinson was a brilliant economist who, as a senior public servant, faithfully served this nation, making an indelible contribution to the development of the banking and financial sectors, inter alia, in Trinidad and Tobago before assuming her role as First Lady from 1997 to 2003,” he said.
Richards added her influence as an economist in areas such as double taxation was “felt throughout the region” and said, “the nation owes her a debt of gratitude.”
Government ministers were surprised to learn of Patricia’s death at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting at Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s. A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said Prime Minister Patrick Manning expressed his “deepest and most heartfelt condolences” to Robinson on the passing of his wife. In addition to sending a formal letter of condolence, Manning and his wife Local Government Minister Hazel Manning visited Robinson at his home yesterday afternoon “to offer their sympathies and support to the bereaved family.”
Manning mandated Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon to be in touch with Robinson “in order to offer assistance in any way possible to the Robinsons.”
Gopee-Scoon confirmed she has been speaking with Robinson and Government was prepared to offer any assistance with the funeral arrangements. She described Patricia as “a person of high intellect” who made a great contribution to the country.
Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London also praised Patricia, who before her illness, “was a woman of elegance, of class. A professional, a brilliant scholar who contributed significantly to the development of Trinidad and Tobago and of course to the development of Tobago.”
London applauded Robinson’s commitment to his wife during her illness. “I want to on behalf of all of us, hope that he is able to find the strength to endure the loss and that he will continue to be around with us for a very long time,” he added.
Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday, a member of Robinson’s cabinet from 1986 to 1988, also remembered Patricia for the contribution she made to the country’s economic development.
“She (Patricia) was very educated and very bright,” he said.
Winston Dookeran, another former member of Robinson’s cabinet, said one of the most difficult duties he had to perform in public life was going to the Prime Minister’s residence in St Clair during the attempted coup of July 27,1990 to assure Patricia about her husband’s health while he was a hostage in the Red House.
Close relatives said Patricia often recalled the trauma she felt when her husband was taken hostage, was shot and her family was taken by the security forces to Camp Ogden for protection during the attempted coup.
Dookeran said Patricia was a pillar of support for her husband and was “someone whose professional opinion was highly respected.”
Patricia was also a gracious hostess. “She was very hospitable and humble,” said Dookeran, a former central bank governor and now leader of the Congress of the People.