Bessie L. Robinson, first lady of Evening Star Church of God
Bessie L. Robinson, known as “Mother Robinson” in the Evening Star Church of God in Christ on Fillmore Avenue, was much more than an active and devoted pastor’s wife.
A longtime psychiatric ward clerk in the old E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital, Mrs. Robinson was also a licensed cosmetologist, a tailor and an avid fisherwoman.
“Yes, she wore many hats,” said her son, Burl L. Smith. “But let me tell you about her hats, too. As a church first lady, she always wore hats of every color and design, and she looked distinguished and proper. We called her the jewel of the church.”
Mrs. Robinson died March 15 in her Cheektowaga home. She was 97.
Born in Marion, La., she was the daughter of Willie and Vester Andrews and graduated from Warren High School. In school, she played guard on the basketball team.
When she was 13, she told her family, her father taught her to drive a 13-gear logging truck. After that, she said it was no problem learning to shift gears in a car, her son said.
The family moved to Pine Bluff, Ark., where Mrs. Robinson supervised the officers dining hall in an aviation school during World War II.
In 1944, after the death of her mother, she visited Buffalo for the first time to stay with her uncle, Bonnie Byrd.
She then moved to Kansas City, where she worked as a supervisor in a synthetic rubber plant.
After moving to Pine Bluff, she cosmetology license and worked as a beautician.
In 1952, she began work as a ward clerk in the psychiatric nursing department of Meyer Memorial Hospital, the forerunner of Erie County Medical Center. She worked there for 25 years, retiring in 1977.
In the evenings, Mrs. Robinson took classes at the Helen Grabowski School of Tailors, becoming a certified tailor.
She made her own clothing and a few garments for her son, but “that was more like a hobby for her,” her son said. “She didn’t get into it as a business; she didn’t have the time.”
In Buffalo, Mrs. Robinson joined Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, where she served as Sunday school teacher, president of the Young People Willing Workers group, secretary of the Bible Band, a radio announcer and church clerk. She sang with the McClellan Gospel Chorus and worked with the Nurses Unit.
Statewide, her church work included serving with the Nurses Unit and the Women in White and as assistant secretary for the state Mothers Board. She also earned her Evangelist Missionary License.
In 1965, she married Elder Marvin W. Robinson, who was a minister at the Holy Temple Church of God in Christ.
In 1972, Elder Robinson founded the Evening Star Church of God in Christ in a couple of storefronts, Smith said. The congregation constructed the church’s current building, which opened in 1989.
Mrs. Robinson served as district president of the Ministers Wives organization for many years.
At her church, she was a Sunday school superintendent and teacher, Bible Band teacher, president of YPWW and the Mothers Board.
She was also church clerk and organist.
When she had free time, she loved to fish, dropping lines at several favorite places, including the foot of Ferry Street and Ellicott Creek.
“Last summer, until she was hospitalized at the end of August, she had already gone fishing” with a grandson, Smith said.
Besides her son and husband of 54 years, Mrs. Robinson is survived by five stepdaughters, Peggy Sanford, Tina Robinson, Francine Jones, Anita Robinson and Gwen Ingram; a stepson, the Rev. Tony Robinson; two grandsons; and many stepgrandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.
A service will begin at noon Monday in Evening Star Church of God in Christ, 1552 Fillmore Ave.