Eleanor Robinson | News, Sports, Jobs

“The festive ecology calls each of us to spend time outdoors, to observe the colors, the movements, the presences and the absence of species, and yes, to simply enjoy the generosity. We celebrate ecology and are inspired to do all in our power to protect and discover this essential life-giving ecosystem.

– Eleanor Robinson at the grand opening of the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, 2016.

Eleanor Gamble Perkins Robinson lit up the world. We mourn the death of our dear wife, mother, sister, friend, naturalist, community leader, conservationist, backing vocalist, recording artist, teacher, coach and true bright light. While her family sang “Good night Irene”, Eleanor passed away peacefully on January 2, 2022 at her home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Eleanor bravely battled lung cancer in non-smokers for five years.

Eleanor, or Missy for her family and friends, was born on October 11, 1958 to John and Eleanor Perkins and raised on Long Island, where her curiosity and respect for the natural world took shape. It has often been found in intertidal areas and coastal nature reserves, studying creatures of water, land and sky. Her delight and wonder at birds began on the shores of Long Island, but eventually took her to extreme parts of the world: the Amazon rainforest, where she has banded birds with the World Wildlife Fund; British Columbia, where she researched pelagic birds with the Natural History Museum; and the outer islands of New England and Canada, where she documented the behaviors of migrating birds as a resident naturalist.

From an early age, she thirsted for adventure and exploration. Alongside her older brother Brad, she spent summers in the Adirondack Mountains, climbing peaks and paddling rivers. At the age of 11, she was one of the youngest girls to reach the top of 46 High Peaks at over 4,000 feet, fostering a lifelong love for the mountains. Of all the hikes in the woods, campfires and nights under the stars throughout her life, she was the most proud of the 14,411-foot ascent of Mount Rainier in 2009 with the American Lung Association, in honor of his brother Brad, who died of brain cancer. In 2008.

Eleanor’s professional life was driven by an unwavering passion for the wonders of the natural world. She met her lifelong mentor, renowned environmentalist Thomas Lovejoy, while receiving a BS in botany and zoology at the University of Washington. This launched a career in conservation and advocacy, sending her at a young age to work in Peru and Brazil, at Woods Hole, at Boston University – where she earned her masters in science journalism – and then in Washington, DC. in the 1990s. A prolific writer and determined conservationist, she led campaigns for the Smithsonian Institute and the World Wildlife Fund, introducing the public to the then emerging issue of “climate change.” Her dedication spanned from the halls of the Capitol to teaching in middle and high school classrooms, where she shared her natural curiosity with young and inspiring minds.

After moving to Old Lyme in 2012, she found herself in the ecological hotspot of the Connecticut River Estuary, which she considered to be the East Coast Amazon Delta. It became his last class. In honor of famed ornithologist, artist, educator and former Old Lyme resident Roger Tory Peterson, she founded an Audubon Center in Old Lyme, a pilot environmental education program that started from the trunk of her Mini Green Cooper. With no physical center yet established, she carried educational materials including maps, microscopes and binoculars that hung from the headrest. Today, the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is a thriving STEM institution serving 15 cities in the region and the city of New London. Its educational programs reach over 4,000 children and families each year.

At the center of his life was his family. Her husband, Mark KJ Robinson, first spotted her heading the Charles Regatta in Boston, Massachusetts, where she worked as director of media relations at the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Brands “Newfy sweater” an iconic garment endemic to Newfoundland, caught his eye. They bonded over time in northeastern Canada; Mark does missionary work and Eleanor teaches at the Quebec Labrador Foundation. In 35 years of marriage, they raised three daughters on the Calvary Church campus in Stonington, Connecticut, of which Mark was rector. Together they founded Calvary Church Nursery and Calvary Music schools and have traveled the world, settling in South Africa, Uganda, Washington, DC, Ohio and Connecticut.

Eleanor was bursting with creative energy and a love for movement, groove and music. From her childhood to her last vacation in Park City, Utah, last Christmas, she carried her ukulele in tow. While at Miss Porter School (’76) she arranged music and sang in the acapella group and throughout her life continued to write songs, limericks and ditties that brought young people together and the not so young. His music filled church halls, community centers, living rooms and backyards, where his second soprano voice could be heard in choirs, groups and ensembles. While raising three young girls, she launched “Sweet Beats”, a company that has inspired intergenerational music and the creation of movements for babies, children and families. In true Eleanor’s mind, when she tore her coach butt from the ACL, she spent her recovery writing and recording two albums of original songs for Singing Families (available under “Éléonore Robinson” on Spotify, Amazon and iTunes).

Eleanor often said that she had lived a hundred lives. Maybe it was an underestimate. We remember her for her vibrant wit, humor, love and light. We are called to action by his vision of harmony between people and their environment. And we are committed to completing the legacy she left.

In the words of her friend and environmental colleague, “As I sit overlooking Great Island on the Connecticut River estuary, I think of Eleanor’s love for this little piece of nature – her encyclopedic knowledge of everything from butterflies to ospreys; her deep respect for the earth and the cycles of regeneration of spring, summer, fall and winter… We have lost a great champion of life and nature, but she endowed [us] not only with wonderful memories and wisdom, but perhaps more importantly, she leaves [us] with an incredibly high set of standards to follow – of how to live fully, face adversity with unimaginable courage, and spread joy with everyone you meet.

Eleanor was predeceased by her brother, Bradford Perkins of Seattle, Washington and her father John Perkins of Essex, Connecticut. She is survived by her husband, the Reverend Canon Mark KJ Robinson; his daughters Sewell, Frances and Florence; his son-in-law Sam Bourneuf; Eleanor, Sewell and Sam’s daughter “Ebbie”; his mother Eleanor Perkins; and his brother John Perkins.

A private funeral service will be held with his family next week and a public celebration will be held on Saturday April 23, 2022 at 2 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church in New London, Connecticut. In lieu of flowers, please donate in memory of Eleanor at Connecticut Audubon – Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center (www.ctaudubon.org/rtpecdonate).


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