Jean Robertson Elliot, 98, a grand dame of Old Town Alexandria and an arts patron who to her own dismay once was appointed poet laureate of Virginia, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 12 at her home in Alexandria.
Mrs. Elliot, a native of Yonkers who once aspired to be a portrait painter, was a supporter of such arts groups as the Little Theater of Alexandria. She also wrote poetry, writing mainly on nature and history.
In 1976, a state senator from Alexandria nominated her for the honorary position of poet laureate and the Virginia General Assembly approved the selection. The appointment baffled Mrs. Elliott, whose first and only book of poems, "A Starrier Coldness," was published that year and consisted of a few hundred copies.
"Heaven only knows why they made me poet laureate," she told The Washington Post in 1979. "Personally, I think it's silly."
The accolades, however, kept coming. In 1979, the Alexandria City Council named her the city's poet-in-residence and erected a bronze commemorative plaque on the front of her home noting her contributions to the art of poetry. Her response: "I don't rave about Old Town. It's very dirty and noisy."
She and her husband, banker R. Sherrard Elliot Jr., settled in Alexandria in 1960, and over the years they donated time and money in support of artists and art groups. In the early 1980s, the Elliots commissioned sculptor Jimilu Mason's bronze statue of a goddess-like figure displayed at Market Square in Old Town.
Her husband died in 1987. She leaves no immediate survivors.