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Dolores DeFina Hope, a singer, philanthropist and the wife of the late, legendary comedian Bob Hope, died Monday of natural causes at her Toluca Lake home in Los Angeles. She was 102.
Born in Harlem on May 27, 1909, Dolores was singing at the Vogue Club in Manhattan under the stage name Dolores Reade when she was introduced to Hope, then a rising Broadway star. As he described it, it was “love at first song,” and they were married for nearly 70 years until his death in July 2003 at age 100.
Though she accompanied her husband on many of his USO trips to entertain the troops — usually closing the show with a touching rendition of “Silent Night” — she put her singing career on hold to be at his side and to raise their children. But at age 83, she recorded several albums and performed with Rosemary Clooney in New York at Rainbow and Stars for several weeks.
Hope made her last visit to the servicemen and servicewomen during Operation Desert Storm, performing “White Christmas” from the back of a truck in the middle of the Saudi desert. She was 84 at the time.
“She was the first lady of the USO,” actress Carol Channing said. “They didn’t come any more patriotic, caring or talented than Dolores.”
Bob Hope appeared in or hosted almost 200 USO performances, including annual Christmas tours for 35 consecutive years.
“The entire USO family mourns the loss of Dolores Hope, as we have admired the Hope family’s dedication to troops and their families,” said USO president Sloan Gibson. “Dolores Hope was a national treasure. As the ‘family’ that accompanied Bob Hope, she had a unique ability to lift the spirits of our troops and their families.”
The Hopes moved to California in the late 1930 so that Bob could pursue his film and radio careers. They built a home in Toluca Lake, where she lived until her death, and were longtime members of the Lakeside Golf Club, where she was runner-up to the women’s club champion for several years. In 2008, she was honored by the Ladies Professional Golf Association with its Patty Berg Award for her contributions to women’s golf, and she and her husband served as hosts of the PGA’s Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament in the desert for years.
In the late 1960s, the Hopes donated 80 acres of land for the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., which opened in 1971. Dolores was founding president of the hospital and involved in the building and decor of the hospital. From 1968-76, she served as president of its board and since 1977 was its chairman, becoming chairman emeritus in the ’90s.
The Hopes adopted four children, and Dolores became an advocate for adoption, serving on the board of Holy Family Adoption Services in Los Angeles. She was a Catholic and a proud member of St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood, where she gave much time and financial help over the years to various parish causes including the building of the Lady of Hope chapel and the Holy Family Social Service Center. Throughout her life, she was devoted to Catholic causes, especially those benefiting the poor.
Survivors include her children Linda Hope of Toluca Lake and William Kelly Hope of Oakland, Calif.; her grandchildren Zachary Hope, Miranda Hope and Andrew Hope Lande; and great-grandson Kai Smith. The Hopes’ eldest son Anthony died in 2004 at age 63.
Services will be private, with burial next to her husband at the Bob Hope Memorial Garden in the San Fernando Mission in Mission Hills, Calif.
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