Adelia “Dede” Robertson, the first lady of the Christian Broadcasting Network, died Tuesday at her home in Virginia Beach. The wife of famed “700 Club” televangelist Pat Robertson was 94.
Her passing was confirmed in a statement from the network they both founded and helmed for nearly seven decades, although no official cause of death was disclosed.
“Dede Robertson 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,” said Pat, 92, in a statement.
Born Dede Elmer on December 3, 1927, in Columbus, Ohio, she later graduated from Ohio State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Administration. She worked as a fashion model and beauty queen and was eventually crowned Miss Ohio State.
Dede continued her education at the Yale University School of Nursing, where she received a master of nursing degree — and she met M.G. “Pat” Robertson, a student at Yale Law School, in 1952.
The couple ran off to be married by a justice of the peace in 1954 — knowing neither her Catholic parents nor his South Baptist brood would approve — and embarked on a journey that included living in a roach-infested commune in New York before Pat bought a tiny TV station in Virginia that over the decades they would grow into the CBN empire,
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 booze, ripping a nude print off the wall — and declaring he had accepted Christ into his heart.
Dede Robertson became a born-again Christian several months after her husband, Pat Robertson, found his faith. When Pat later ran for president of the United States in 1988, Dede was always seen campaigning by his side.APThey 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 later “heard God” tell him to buy the small TV station in Portsmouth, Virginia, which would become a global religious broadcasting network. With Dede’s dedicated support, he ran the network’s flagship program, the “700 Club,” for half a century before stepping down in the fall of 2021.
Before the two would start the Christian Broadcasting Network together, Pat and Dede Robertson met at Yale University in 1952.AP“My mother had so many virtues … I’ve never heard her complain or want to give up,” her daughter Elizabeth Robinson shared in an emotional CBN tribute. “That’s what Dad needed beside him all these years; a steadfast partner who continually read the Bible and studied the Bible. She was not too concerned about herself. She was selfless. I always saw that growing up. She would make sure we had before she had.”
In her 1984 autobiography, “The New You,” Robertson poked fun at her hubby’s refusal to help around the house: “I was a Northerner, and Northern men just generally help around the house a little more. 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: “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.
“My mom was a rock. She was a rock throughout our childhood,” her daughter Ann LeBlanc told CBN. “Dad had to travel a lot, but Mom was always there for us kids… that gives great security to children.”
Robertson is survived by her husband and her four children: Elizabeth, Gordon, Timothy and Ann Le, as well as 14 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.