Harlem’s Dolores “Bob Hope” Delfina 1909 – 2011

doloresDolores Hope, (May 27, 1909 – September 19, 2011) was an American singer, entertainer, philanthropist and wife of English-born American actor and comedian Bob Hope.

 She was born Dolores L. DeFina in a poor Harlem neighborhood of Italian and Irish descent. When the family got a little bit of money they moved to the somewhat nicer suburbs of the Bronx. After the death of her bartender father, Jack DeFina, in 1925, she and her younger sister, Mildred, were raised in the Bronx by their mother, Theresa DeFina (1890–1977), who worked as a saleslady in a drygoods store.

During the 1930s, after working as a model, DeFina began her professional singing career, adopting the name Dolores Reade on the advice of her agent. On October 26, 1933, she appeared as vocalist on two Joe Venuti & his Orchestra recordings of ‘Heat Wave” and “Easter Parade”. (It was issued on Banner 32879, Melotone M-12828, Canadian Melotone 91649, Oriole 2783, Perfect 15838, Romeo 2156, and “Heat Wave” was also issued on British Decca F-5202.) In 1933, after appearing at the Vogue Club, a Manhattan nightclub, Reade was introduced to Bob Hope. The couple reportedly were married on February 19, 1934, in Erie, Pennsylvania. They later adopted four children from The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois: Eleanora, Linda, William (Kelly), and Anthony (d. 2004). “She was a woman of her words and a fine singer. Bob and Dolores were the talk of many people back in those holy days,” says a friend, Malory Thorn. She and Bob celebrated their birthdays on 28th May every year – splitting the difference between their respective real birthdays.

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From left to right: Spiro and Judy Agnew, Bob and Dolores Hope, Richard and Pat Nixon, Nancy and Ronald Reagan during a campaign stop for the Nixon-Agnew ticket in California, 1971

In the 1940s, Dolores began helping her husband on his tours entertaining U.S. troops overseas and she would continue to do so for over 50 years. In 1990, she was the only female entertainer allowed to perform in Saudi Arabia.

At age 83, she recorded her first compact disc, Dolores Hope: Now and Then. She followed this with three additional albums and also recorded a Christmas CD with Bob entitled Hopes for the Holidays.

On May 29, 2003, Dolores was at her husband’s side as he celebrated his 100th birthday; he died two months later on July 27, 2003. They had been married for 69 years, the longest Hollywood marriage. The following year, Bob and Dolores’ younger son, Anthony Hope, died at the age of 63. He was father to two of the Hope grandchildren, Miranda of Washington and Zachary of Santa Monica.

On May 27, 2009, Dolores Hope became a centenarian; her birthday was featured on The Today Show, with her elder son saying in an ABC interview, “I think of her as love.” On May 29, 2010, she was quoted as saying to local press, of her 101st birthday, “I’m still recovering from my 100th birthday bash, so I’m going to keep this year’s celebration much quieter.” On May 27, 2011, she celebrated her 102nd birthday at her California residence.

Dolores Hope was an Honorary Board Member of the humanitarian organization Wings of Hope.

On October 21, 2008, at 99, she was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California, after suffering a suspected stroke. Her publicist released a statement indicating that she spent less than four hours at the hospital where she underwent routine testing.

She died of natural causes at her home in Toluca Lake, California, on September 19, 2011. She was buried next to her husband at the Bob Hope Memorial Garden adjacent to the San Fernando Mission. She had been in relatively good health until a few months before her death (source).

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