Remembering our Friend
Margaret Robinson, 1945
(Staten Island Historical Society)
On a warm summer day in 1937, Margaret Robinson along with her class of young school friends came to Historic Richmond Town as part of a project to restore the Voorlezer’s House. For young Margaret Robinson, this event began 73 years of volunteer service at an institution she would grow to love. Born on March 2nd, 1924 , it seems that Margaret Robinson was rooted in Richmond Town from the start. As a native Staten Islander, she attended P.S. 28 and later graduated from New Dorp High School. Her service to the Staten Island Historical Society would increase as the years progressed and even involved her helping to transition the organization from a volunteer establishment to an active not-for-profit institution.
Margaret was named to the Board of Directors in 1963, a nomination that surprisingly came only after it was discovered that she had been serving as an assistant treasurer and acting treasurer for many years without being a member of the Board.
Margaret went from restoring houses at Historic Richmond Town to making jams and jellies to becoming a community volunteer. Her focus as she put it was to “really earn the [Woman of Achievement] title” that was bestowed upon her by the Staten Island Advance in 1972. Her resume of volunteerism and servitude is one that puts most people a quarter of her age to shame. She served as an active volunteer and member to well over a dozen Staten Island institutions and was undoubtedly every organization’s dream. She was known as an informal historian of Richmond Town. An independent and free willed woman whose recollection of Staten Island’s past and present was as quick and sharp as her tongue.
Margaret graduated from Hunter College with a Bachelors Degree in Math and Statistics and a Masters Degree in Economics from New York University. She would utilize this knowledge and skill many times over as an assistant treasurer and then acting treasurer of the Staten Island Historical Society from 1961 until 1979. Even in her career it seems that Margaret was a pioneer of sorts. At a time when many of the nation’s prominent technology driven organizations were staffed by men, Margaret was employed with and also held supervisory status at influential corporations, Western Electric and later AT&T.
After her retirement from AT&T, Margaret’s volunteer service began to increase. She served as a SCORE counselor for 10 years and through an AARP income tax program, assisted seniors every tax season in preparing their tax forms. She would also become a member and Treasurer of the Staten Island Geological Society, Board and Trust Committee member for the Staten Island Archaeological Society, and Corporate Secretary and Board member for the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Arts.
Margaret also found time to serve as a member and volunteer for Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island Symphony, Greenbelt Conservancy, Staten Island Botanical Garden, Staten Island Children’s Museum, the Preservation League of Staten Island, the Alice Austen House, John Noble Maritime Collection, COAHSI, Conference House, Pine Oak Woods, Blue Heron Park, Staten Island Zoological Society, Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, Meals on Wheels, Telephone Pioneers of America and the Lynne Robbins Steinman Foundation.
In her 1996, Staten Island Advance Profile article, Margaret is quoted as saying that she is happiest, “...knowing people. I’m happy going to an affair. If [the city finance commissioner] knows that I count. I’m somebody. I’ve made my mark and they know who I am.” It goes without saying that Margaret Robinson has been an active figure and tremendous influence the Staten Island community and her presence will truly be missed.
“Margaret’s ability to recall details of the Society’s early years always impressed me. She was a lively connection to our institutional past, always willing to share her thoughts, feelings, and memories. In our twenty years of working together we didn’t always agree on the way to approach a project, but I never doubted for a moment that she wanted what was best for the Society, and I always had great respect for her passion and her clarity of vision.”
- Maxine Friedman
"Margaret Robinson taught me how to be a
member of a non-profit Board of Directors, and well she should have:
she was the model board member. She was never, never just a name. She
was committed to the organization. She may have supported others, but
she made the Board and Staff of the Society always feel that, in her
heart, we came first -- almost before anything else in her life. And,
being a good board member, I'm sure that she made other organizations
feel the same way. She was a doer not just a talker. Don't get me
wrong. Everyone who ever met Margaret knew that she had something to
say, no, that she had something important to say. Yet, the words never
stood alone. She attended every meeting. She participated in every
discussion. She asked the right questions. She contributed time and
energy to every event. She supported every fundraiser. She got her
hands dirty. . . all the while being the conscience of the organization,
keeping our eyes on our mission, and keeping our hands clean on the
road to reaching that mission. She had professional skills that she
used to guide (and needle!) our Finance Committee, and she had private
skills that she used to supplement the work of our staff.
Margaret taught me that being a Board member is not about what
you can say about yourself on your resume or at a cocktail party, but
about what the organization could say about your contributions and how
that organization reflected improvement because you were there. As
much as she loved the collecting of the artifacts and the preservation
of the documents and the restoration of the buildings, Margaret
understood that there is no point to all of that work if you don't have a
plan that keeps those things going long after you're gone, and if you
don't share it all with every generation.
It is this Board's mission to live up to that understanding and
the challenge it communicates. Long after Margaret is gone,
generations of visitors to Historic Richmond Town need to be reminded
about how enchanting and safe it was to grow up playing on the steps of
the Third County Courthouse during the depression, how exciting it was
to learn in P.S. 28, how satisfying it was to be a trailblazing career
woman in the mid-20th century, how rewarding it was to share your entire
life's energy with others, and how marvelous one life can be. We will
miss Margaret, her voice, her demands, her challenges and her
insights. But I don't think we'll miss the comfort that we felt knowing
that Margaret was in the room keeping an eye on things, and that's
because I find it impossible to believe that Margaret's spirit will ever
-John Gustafsson, PresidentStaten
Island Historical Society
"Miss Robinson, as she preferred to be called, was the last of the greatest generation here. 70 years ago her hands packed mud at the 1695 Voorelzer House and 17 days ago her hands shuffled financial reports seeking out the slightest discrepancy. During the decades in between she grew to be a loyal and true friend to Staten Island and Historic Richmond Town. She volunteered, always giving and never taking, donating and never asking to receive, demanding and never compromising value.
And, to me, in a short time she became a close friend and advisor. Each day, I expect her to walk through our door ready to toss one more savvy thought grenade. What a loss! Margaret, you were a treasure."
came to admire Margaret in the 10
years [that I knew her]. Whenever I brought to her home something to
sign, meeting materials or paper copies of e-mails, she would be sitting
at her desk. Margaret was not interested in modern technology, and did
not want to learn how to use a computer. She always had classical
music playing in her little house on the hill and (I think) just
enjoyed the company. She meant a lot to me, and I will miss her.”
“It doesn’t seem
possible that Margaret can actually be gone. It’s only been days (since
her death), and I miss her already. Margaret was a real
straight-shooter who was never afraid to let you know exactly what was
on her mind. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who knew more about
Staten Island and cared as much about its well being as Margaret did.
There is an old African proverb which states that
a library burns to the ground whenever an elderly person dies. On
Sunday, December 12th, Staten Island lost one of its best and
most trusted libraries when it lost Margaret Robinson.”
VP of Development, Marketing & Administration
"I loved Margaret! She had a tough exterior but her bark was worse than her bite. She helped out during the Richmond County Fair and I enjoyed the conversations that we had. I will miss her."
Saturday - June 1, 2013 12:00PMUncorked! 2013
Sunday - June 9, 2013 12:00PMThe Billiou-Stillwell-Perine-House Roof Fundaiser
Sunday - June 16, 2013 1:00PMFather's Day Focus Tour
Thursday - July 4, 2013 11:00AMIndependence Day Celebration
Saturday - August 31, 2013 11:00AMRichmond County Fair 2013 8/31
Sunday - September 1, 2013 11:00AMRichmond County Fair 2013 9/1
Monday - September 2, 2013 11:00AMRichmond County Fair 2013 9/2
Monday - September 23, 2013 10:00AMVillage Flea Market
Saturday - September 28, 2013 1:00PM9th Annual Smithsonian Museum Day
Sunday - October 20, 2013 11:00AMOld Home Day
Friday - October 25, 2013 3:30PMHalloween in Richmond Town
Friday - November 29, 2013 1:00PMThanksgiving Kitchen Tour
Saturday - December 14, 2013 5:00PMCandlelight Tours
Saturday - December 21, 2013 5:00PMCandlelight Tours
Workshops and Classes
Wed., May 29, 2013After School Book Club
Wed., May 29, 2013English Country Dancing
Wed., May 29, 2013Book Club for Adults
Thu., May 30, 2013Story Museum
Thu., May 30, 2013Quilt Making