Adaline Smith Robinson

Adaline Smith Robinson, 3rd generation St Louisan, died of natural causes December 25 2021, at the age of 103.  As her life spanned so many events, her parting marks the end of an era.  Adaline was able to pass on to her family many stories, Jewish traditions, and a strong belief in the power of the individual.

Adaline, named for opera singer Adelina Patti, was born in 1918 in the 3rd floor ballroom of a home at Lake and Washington, that had been built for the Italian representative to the St Louis Worlds Fair and which had later been bought by her family.  (Her neighbors were the Meriwether family of Lewis and Clark fame.)  Her parents were Aaron Smith

and Ida Levin Smith of the widely known Smith Furniture Company, that had been founded and run by Adaline’s grandmother, Paulina Smith, at the turn of the century (while she also raised 13 children).  Adaline’s life continued the family tradition of beautiful, smart, incredibly strong, complex women who were trailblazers, decades ahead of their time.  Many years later her younger sister, Charlotte Cohen, was to become the first woman to open her own stock brokerage business.  The depression hit the family hard, and the stage was set for the challenges and later triumphs to come.

Adaline graduated from University City High School and Harris Teachers College and was a painter who then taught art classes. From an early age Adaline possessed an extraordinary eye, impeccable taste, and a uniquely nuanced understanding of color.

She met and married William Saul Robinson at the start of WWII. Their marriage was to last 52 years until he was tragically taken when they were both struck by a car while holding hands and crossing the street.  As newlyweds,  they traveled to the East Coast where Bill headed several POW camps. Adaline, always by his side, was active in the life of the camp

and even set up an art tent at one of the camps in Frederick, Maryland for a German prisoner who was a painter. When a high ranking general visited the camp, he was so taken with the painter, along with other prisoners Adaline had personally trained for the mess, (including a German cook and maitre d’) he subsequently transferred them to be part of his personal staff.  Portraits of Bill and Adaline painted by the German POW hung in their home for their entire lives.  And years later when Adaline suddenly became a blond–as women of a certain age often do–without skipping a beat she repainted the hair in her own portrait to reflect the change.    Adaline’s time on the east coast with the exposure to its history and furniture, reinforced her love of art and antiques and made a lasting impression later manifested in her own highly curated collections.

After the war Bill and Adaline returned to St Louis where they built a house and a family. Adaline also wrote articles for the Jewish Post and even ran for public office. Her passions were yiddishkeit, learning, and the arts, and the strong belief that an individual can change the world. She passed this on to her two children, first born Howard Neil and Sarajane Paulina whom she enrolled in Orthodox Hebrew day school. Adaline always put the welfare of her children first, frequently sacrificing her own pursuits for their benefit.  She continuously supported and encouraged her children to follow their passions, and for Howard, it would be medicine, while for Sarajane, it was theatre.  Adaline’s greatest joy was watching their accomplishments grow.

When her peers were stay at home wives, Adaline opened her own business, the Good As New clothing store which she ran for almost twenty years. Just as her grandmother had specialized in used furniture, she sold used clothing, much of it very high end. When Adaline and Bill became empty-nesters, she closed her shop and pursued another love, scholarly Jewish research. Her primary focus was on the Jewish roots of Christopher Columbus.  She would use her uncanny intuition, backed up with meticulous research, to follow this then novel premise which has since gained wide acceptance. Adaline’s work was published in various articles, and she would also lecture.

Bill and Adaline also enjoyed traveling, and the highlight of their trips became the yearly European cruises Adaline hosted to bring her then growing family together. Howard and Sarajane had both left St Louis, married, and had children. This group of eleven would all gather from different parts of the country to make wonderful memories.  The tragic accident that had killed Bill occurred after two of these cruises.  Adaline still hosted the third but in a wheelchair.

Adaline went through a long rehab period when she regained most of her abilities, but was never as strong.  She still traveled, but it was primarily to visit her family on special occasions. She was extremely alert and astute, trading stocks well into her late 90’s, even after she had been bedridden with 24 hour care due to complications from the car accident decades earlier. She continued to rejoice in the lives of her family and to instill in a new generation, her grandchildren, an unwavering belief in the unlimited potential of each of them. Adaline was ever generous.  Whether she had a lot or a little, most of what she had went to her children.

Adaline is survived by her son Dr Howard N Robinson,  grandchildren, Dallas A. (Stephanie Hale), Amanda L. Alpert (Jonathan), and Dustin M. and great grandchildren, Calista, Zander and Daphne Robinson and Aria and Ever Alpert.  She is also survived by her daughter, Sarajane Robinson Schwartz (John) and grandchildren Trevor (Rachel Zernik) and Taube B. Other family members include her predeceased sister, Charlotte Cohen’s son, Ian (Anne Pokoski) and their children, Bennett and Elizabeth Cohen. All dearly miss her.  Due to Covid, a private family service was held. Contributions in her memory can be made to the Zionist Organization of America.