Dolores Hope

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The Independent Online

Dolores Hope, who died on 19 September at the age of 102, was the sultry-voiced singer who was married to Bob Hope for 69 years and sometimes sang on his shows for US troops and on his television specials.

She was born Dolores DeFinain 1909 in Harlem to an Italian father and Irish mother, and grew up inthe Bronx. Her diction faintly echoed her Bronx upbringing. "My fatherdied when I was very young, and there was just my mother, my sister and me," she recalled in 1982. "Were we a needy family? I always like what General Eisenhower said: 'We were poor and didn't know it.'"

Hope (above, with Bob, AP), began singing early, worked as a model and a Ziegfeld showgirl and at 20 sang with George Olson's band. She adopted the name Dolores Reade, borrowed from the actress Florence Reed. In 1933, when Bob Hope was appearing in his first Broadway show, Roberta, his friend and fellow cast member George Murphy persuaded him to visit the Vogue Club to "hear a pretty girl sing". That was Reade, whose rendition of It's Only a Paper Moon entranced the young comedian. Hope returned every night and soon he was escorting her to her hotel after her shows. They married in February 1934, and she quit nightclubs to join his vaudeville act, before retiring. "Bob was the hot thing in New York then," she said. "I thought I'd better stay home and take care of Bob."

When they moved to Hollywood in 1938 for the beginning of his film career, Dolores stayed home and devoted her time to raising the couple's four adopted children. She continued singing at parties, and in the 1940s began accompanying Hope on his Christmas trips to entertain US troops; in 1966 she sang Silent Night to thousands of hushed GIs who then rose and gave her a thunderous ovation, many with tears in their eyes.

In her 80s she revived her singing career, recording three albums of old and new standards and appearing at New York's Rainbow and Stars as a guest with Rosemary Clooney. Aside from overseeing two homes, in North Hollywood and Palm Springs, she worked indefatigably for numerous charities. From 1969 to 1976 she served as president of the Eisenhower Medical Centre in Palm Desert, California, then becoming chairwoman.

In 1990, Dolores accompanied Bob on his last Christmas visit to US forces, visiting troops who were in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. Marie Osmond, Ann Jillian and the Pointer Sisters did not perform, to avoid offending Saudi sensibilities. But Dolores was approved and sang White Christmas to a rapt audience.