Community mourns tragic loss of arts patrons

Former Brock University Board of Trustees Chair Joe Robertson is pictured with his wife Anita.

Niagara is mourning the loss of Joe and Anita Robertson and their daughter Laura Robertson who died in a plane crash Monday July 30/2018.

They were the only occupants of a twin-engine private aircraft which crashed on approach at an airport in Greenville, Maine around 11 a.m. They had taken off from Pembroke, ON and were en route to Prince Edward Island.

“Joe and Anita Robertson were well-known for supporting their community through funding and service to local boards, organizations and causes close to their hearts,” a press release from the City of St. Catharines said Tuesday.  “The Niagara-on-the-Lake family had strong connections to the arts and St. Catharines: Robertson Theatre was named in recognition of their $500,000 donation to the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in 2014. The Robertsons were also seat owners and patrons of performances at the City performing arts centre.”

“On behalf of the City of St. Catharines, I want to offer our deepest condolences to the entire family at this very tragic time,” said St. Catharines Mayor Sendzik in the press release. “This is a horrible tragedy for the family and a deep loss for our community. The community shares in your grief and sadness during this difficult time.

“Joe and Anita were very kind and generous people who cared deeply about making our community more caring and inclusive,” he said. “They instilled these values into their children and their spirit will carry on through the many charities, foundations and causes they’ve so thoughtfully supported: the arts, music, healthcare, education and many others through the United Way. Many lives have been touched by the Robertson family.”

“The staff at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre are shocked and deeply saddened by this news,” said Steve Solski, executive director for the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in the press release. “Joe and Anita Robertson were generous supporters of the arts, passionate arts lovers and all around wonderful people. Our hearts go out to their family and friends during this difficult time.”

Joe Robertson was also a former Board of Trustees Chair at Brock University, serving ten years in that position, daughter Laura Robertson, 24, had just been hired by the University to work in the athletics and recreation department.

“One cannot understate the enormous contribution Joe Robertson made to Brock University both as Chair of the Board and a passionate supporter of the University at every turn,” said Gary Comerford, Chair of Brock’s current Board of Trustees in a Brock University press release Tuesday.

“During the years Joe served on the Board, the University made significant strides forward. He helped to lay the foundation for some of the future achievements of this University,” Comerford said.

Comerford expressed that Robertson had inspired him to become part of the board.

“Joe’s legacy at Brock University is an incredible foundation for successive Boards and the many outstanding developments today and into the future,” said Comerford.

In the release Brock University president Gervan Fearon said: ““Joe had maintained a continued involvement in the University and he will be greatly missed by the Brock community and the large number of individuals in Niagara who knew and worked with him.”

Vice-president, administration Brian Hutchings who had worked during Robertson’s time at Brock noted that he was “a dedicated family man who cherished his wife and kids.”

He also noted that Roberston was one to come to meetings well prepared and had always done his homework.

“He came in, learned the environment and stepped up to a leadership role here at Brock,” said Hutchings in the Brock University press release. “I think we’re indebted to Joe for the amount of hours and work he put into Brock to make it the great place it is today.”

Former Brock president Jack Lightstone also noted Robertson enthusiasm for the person he worked closely with for a decade.

“Joe took on responsibility after responsibility, and with enthusiasm,” Lightstone said in the release. “The thing that struck everyone about Joe was his commitment.”

“He was meticulous, and he always wanted Brock to have stretch goals, to reach beyond its current capacity, to constantly be better. That was evident in everything he did.”

Robertson successor as Board Chair John Suk, shaken by the news said: “As well as being a personal friend, Joe was a tremendous business leader who made a huge impact on Brock, and I was privileged to serve with him as his vice-chair.”

“He took me under his wing and mentored me for my role as Chair after him,” he said. “Joe had the courage of his convictions, and was a leader in his example, his accomplishments and his values. I cannot overstate what a loss this is for all of us.”

“Anita similarly was a huge supporter of Brock and the community, and supported Joe at every Brock event I can think of,” he said.

“This is a really, really sad day for Brock and for the Niagara community,” former Brock president Jack Lightstone said. “A devastating day.”



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