Centenarian lauded for community, political involvement


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Mary Lou Robinson, center, was surrounded by family, friends and Palm Bay Mayor William Capote, right, for her 100th birthday celebration.

Courtesy of Mary Lou Robinson’s family

Mary Lou Robinson is much admired in the local political community as the founder of the Democratic Women’s Club of Palm Bay.

“I feel good about it,” she said recently. When family and friends gathered on Nov. 23, 2019 to celebrate her 100th birthday, everyone was reminded of her remarkable life and her numerous accomplishments.

Robinson’s journey began in Georgia where she was born in a segregated community, as was Melbourne where her family relocated when Robinson was in elementary school. After graduating from high school in Melbourne, Robinson relocated to New York at age 18, and it was the vicissitudes of that city that shaped Robinson’s life.

As she raised her five children, she learned the importance of community involvement and at the same time, developed a sense of adventure. Upon retirement, Robinson returned to Brevard County to make the Melbourne-Palm Bay area her forever home.

As retirees, Robinson and her husband, Johnathan, who died in 2016 at the age of 103, formed a theatrical workshop for children in Melbourne. For 10 years, they introduced children to theatre production and cinematography.

“Both my parents enjoyed encouraging young people to do their best at what they feel their goals are,” said Sharon Barnshill, Robinson’s daughter.

Robinson was an active member of the Democratic Club in Melbourne when she was tapped to organize a club in Palm Bay. Palm Bay Mayor William Capote, who attended Robinson’s party, credits her as being the catalyst that got him into politics and the mayoral race. He expressed appreciation for her continued support.

Reflecting on her life’s work, Robinson said, “I was doing something good for my country and for blacks.”

Barnshill describes her mother “as very loving, caring, and an energetic person who also loved to travel.”

A particularly memorable trip was three months Robinson and her husband spent with Barnshill, who was in the military based in Germany. They traveled extensively throughout Europe to the delight of Robinson.

Many of Robinson’s children, 37 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren attended her birthday party. Robinson basked in the love exuded by family and friends.

Despite slight physical pain, she enjoyed the party, noting, “I’m not leaving my party.”