Yves Henri Robert

Sept. 17, 1927 - Dec. 2, 2018
Yves Henri Robert, Sept. 17, 1927 - Dec. 2, 2018

Yves Henri Robert of East Hampton, who was born in Hong Kong to French parents, died of pneumonia at Southampton Hospital on Dec. 2 at the age of 91.

Mr. Robert had a peripatetic life, moving as a youngster to Shanghai and then to Paris in 1937 when the second Sino-Japanese War began. He was caught there at the outbreak of World War II.

An adventuresome businessman, Mr. Robert came to New York in 1954 when his French employer, the metal and chemical conglomerate Pechiney, asked for volunteers willing to relocate to America. Only Mr. Robert, who worked in the investment division, said yes.

He met his future wife two years later. 

He was born on Sept. 17, 1927, to Henry Robert of Brittany, France, and Jeanine Chenut of Paris. He was only 10 when his father died in Paris. He and two brothers survived the German occupation and were educated at the Lycée Saint Louis de Gonzague. He always said the Jesuit brothers there were his guiding force and shaped his critical thinking.

During his career he went from Pechiney to owning a medical company and then working for Continental Grain in a post that took him to Russia and to China in the late 1970s in one of the first trade delegations. When he was in his 60s, Mr. Robert retrained himself as a banker, and he and his wife lived for a time in London, where he worked for Alex Brown and Sons.

Mr. Robert met his future wife at a party at the Newport, R.I., family home of her friend Emmie Heppenheimer of East Hampton. He always said he was smitten at first sight. Worried, however, that he might make a misstep as an immigrant in a new country, Mr. Robert wrote to the host of the party, Ms. Heppenheimer’s brother Harold Sands, asking permission to invite Patricia to dinner.

“My mother has always said, ‘I had dated before, I didn’t need permission from one man to date another!’ ” Christina Robert said with a laugh.

The Roberts were married on Aug. 10, 1957, and celebrated their 61st anniversary this year.

The Heppenheimers and another of his wife’s friends, Calista Washburn, introduced the couple to East Hampton in 1961. Four years later, they bought an 18th-century saltbox on Egypt Lane. They also maintained a residence in Manhattan.

In 1984, French Prime minister Francois Mitterand awarded Mr. Robert the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor for military and civil merits. He was honored with the Chevalier l’Ordre du Merite in 1971.

“I have been thinking a lot lately about how many major events he witnessed in the 20th century. The sprawl of his life,” his daughter said.

In addition to his wife, Patricia Hutchinson Robert, and a brother, Dominique Robert of Paris, Mr. Robert is survived by three children, Marc Robert of Bronxville, N.Y., and Shelter Island and Christina Robert and Michel Robert, both of London, and eight grandchildren. 

A funeral service will be held on Dec. 22 at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton, and Mr. Robert will be buried at the church’s cemetery on Cedar Street.

The Robert family has suggested memorial contributions to the Angel Fund at Most Holy Trinity Church, which helps families and the elderly with the cost of heating in the winter. Having lived through the deprivations of war, the ability to heat a home had particular significance for Mr. Robert, his family said.

Through the years, Mr. Robert told his family, East Hampton became the place in the world where he found peace. “It was home,” his daughter said.