Dolores Hope, the singer who was married for 69 years to comedian Bob Hope, died on September 19 at her home in the Toluca Lake, Los Angeles.
Dolores DeFina was born on May 27, 1909, in Harlem, New York City, and began her career as Dolores Reade. Her father was Italian and her mother Irish, and she grew up in the Bronx.
“My father died when I was very young, and there was just my mother, my sister and me. Were we a needy family? I always like what General Eisenhower said: ‘We were poor and didn’t know it.’” Dolores Hope said in 1982
She married Bob Hope in 1934 in Erie, Pennsylvania, and they adopted four children: Nora (Eleanora), Linda, Kelly and Anthony. Anthony died in 2004 at 63. Bob Hope started his film career in 1938 in Hollywood and Dolores stayed home.
“Bob was the hot thing in New York then. I thought I’d better stay home and take care of Bob.” she said in 1997.
“When we were celebrating our 50th anniversary, people would say, ‘Fifty years?’ And Bob would say, ‘Yeah, but I’ve only been home three weeks,’ ” Dolores Hope told the Palm Springs Desert Sun in 1995. She gave Bob Hope a paperweight inscribed “Don’t think these three weeks haven’t been fun.”
“We always had quality instead of quantity. When he wasn’t home, he’d call almost every day, except when he was in a combat zone. Even then, he’d try.” Dolores Hope recalled in the same interview.
Dolores Hope was Catholic and decided what has been appropriate for a family audience. “I learned to temper my humor in those years. Dolores was a tough critic.” Bob Hope said.
In the 1940s she began accompanying Hope on his Christmas trips to entertain U.S. troops. In 1966 she sang “Silent Night” to thousands of soldiers who then rose and gave her a thunderous ovation.
“Dolores was a good friend and a good person. She was an extraordinary partner to Bob throughout his entire life, supporting both their family at home and Bob’s selfless cause to entertain U.S. troops abroad. Together, they brought countless hours of laughter and cheer to Americans everywhere,” said Nancy Reagan.
In 1990, Bob Hope made his last Christmas visit to American forces, visiting troops who were in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. Although Marie Osmond, Ann Jillian and the Pointer Sisters did not sing because of Saudi sensibilities about women entertainers, Dolores Hope was allowed to perform and she sang “White Christmas” to thrilled public.
“She was the first lady of the USO. They didn’t come any more patriotic, caring or talented than Dolores,” said Carol Channing.
Dolores Hope oversaw Hopes charitable giving, helping to establish the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
She took care of two homes (a mansion in North Hollywood and a hilltop home in Palm Springs) and from 1969 to 1976 served as president of the Eisenhower Medical Center, then became chairwoman. Bob Hope raised millions of dollars for the center through the annual golf tournament that used to bear his name and is now known as the Humana Challenge.
A large part of Hopes fortune came from property holdings in the San Fernando Valley. Their wealth had been estimated at as much as $500 million in 2003.
“I like being with people, but I also need to have my time alone. I think it’s terribly important to have some time during the day when you stop and take all the energy that you have given out and pull it back in, find the source of your energy. Then you work from there.” Dolores Hope said in 1982.
Dolores Hope is survived her daughters, Linda Hope and Nora Somers; her younger son, Kelly Hope; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
Bob Hope died in 2003, two months after he had turned 100. In 2009, when Dolores Hope became a centenarian, Linda Hope said she thought laughter in the family home had contributed to her parents’ long lives. Her birthday appeared on The Today Show, and Kelly Hope said in an ABC interview, “I think of her as love.“
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce laid flowers at her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, around four hours after Dolores Hope’s passing, Her star is next to her husband’s. Bob Hope was named the chamber’s “Citizen of the Century.”
Bob and Dolores Hope: Silver Bells
Duffy’s Tavern (1944) with Dolores Hope and Bob Crosby