Robinson bequest will help Vienna fill gaps in sidewalks

Late Vienna Town Council member Maud Robinson, pictured with her late husband, former Vienna Mayor Charles Robinson Jr., bequeathed $7 million to the town of Vienna for sidewalk construction following her death in March 2019.

Late Vienna Town Council member Maud Robinson has bequeathed the town government $7 million – the bulk of her estate – for the building of sidewalks over a five-year period, town officials announced Jan. 14.

The sidewalks, financed by the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust, will be built in areas where they aren’t already planned or likely to be funded through grants or new construction, officials said.

Robinson served on the Town Council from 2000 to 2009 and remained active in the community until her death on March 11 last year at age 96. A native of Stamford, Conn., Robinson served with the U.S. Navy during World War II.

She and her late husband, Charles Robinson Jr., married in 1947 and moved to Vienna in 1951. An attorney with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Charles Robinson served as Vienna’s mayor for 24 years until his death on Jan. 3, 2000.  

The Robinsons were “absolutely devoted to the town of Vienna,” said former Council member Laurie Cole, the estate’s executor and trust’s trustee. “They spent so much of their time and talents in making Vienna a well-governed community where people would want to live. They lived very simply and they had no children. Vienna is their legacy.”

The Robinsons also were avid walkers, and not just when knocking on doors during campaign season, Cole said.

“They probably walked every single street multiple times,” she said. “They realized how much sidewalks mean to making a place a community and a good place to live.”

Town officials still are identifying streets, which already have curb and gutter, where sidewalks could be installed. The town will reach out to residents on the selected streets and solicit their input before the Town Council decides which projects to pursue. The first such decisions could occur as early as the Council’s Jan. 27 meeting.

Vienna has about 85 miles of sidewalks, and Robinson’s bequest likely will finance construction of an additional 3.3 miles of them. The town will employ contractors to build the walkways and the process might take up to two years between a street’s selection and having its sidewalks ready for pedestrians to use, said Vienna Public Works Director Michael Gallagher.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco called Robinson’s bequest a “wonderful gift to the town of Vienna” that will connect not only places but the community.

“Maud and Charlie were all-in for the town of Vienna,” she said. “We’re grateful that this is how Maud, out of her deep sense of public service and commitment to the town, chose to pass on her legacy to the Vienna community.”

Robinson also left $50,000 to the town for beautification purposes and those funds likely will be used for tree plantings and similar projects, Cole said.

The Council on Dec. 9 last year honored Robinson’s memory by purchasing her home at 124 Courthouse Road, S.W., for $1,438,500. Town officials have not decided what to do with the property, but said it may be used for park space.

The Council at the same meeting also unanimously voted to rename 26-acre Northside Park to Northside Park-Maud Robinson Wildlife Preserve. Robinson had helped craft the ordinance that preserved the park in its natural state and, while serving on the Town Council, voted in 2009 to rezone the site to the Park and Conservation Zone.

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