Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thanks For the Memories; A Great Lady Passes: Delores Hope Dies at the Age of 102

A young Delores and Bob Hope
On Monday of this week, America lost one of it's great ladies. At the age of 102, Delores Hope, wife of comedian/singer/actor and humanitarian Bob Hope, passed away of natural causes in Los Angeles. Bob, her husband of 69 years, died at age 100 on July 27, 2003.

Dolores Hope was born Delores DeFina in the Bronx. Her Italian father and Irish mother produced a child who knew from an early age that she wanted to be a singer. By 1930 Delores had an agent. She changed her name to Delores Reade and began singing in New York City nightclubs. In 1933, she met her future husband at the Vogue Club when he came with a friend to hear her sing. "It's Only A Paper Moon". Enchanted by her beauty and sultry singing voice, he courted her for several months before marrying. 

Delores joined Bob in his vaudeville act before leaving the stage to raise their children: Linda, Tony, Kelly and Nora. All of the children were adopted from an orphanage in Evanston, Ill. 

Dolores returned to the stage during World War 2, when she began helping her husband entertain U.S. troops around the world. She became one of the most loved performers in the show and in Vietnam, Christmas 1966, there wasn't a dry eye in the house when Dolores sang Silent Night. The large audience was quiet but erupted into thunderous applause and a standing ovation when she was finished.

Delores Hope in more recent times.
It was the Vietnam concert tours that first made me aware of Bob and Delores Hope. One of the TV stations would televise a compilation of the USO shows sometime after Christmas. Packed with popular Hollywood stars and singers of the day, I remember watching as a teenager trying to hold back the tears. I've attached two of the clips...if you have time, take a look.


Dolores and Bob continued to entertain troops and even went to Saudi Arabia in 1990 during Operation Desert Storm. She was the only female entertainer allowed to perform in Saudi Arabia. 

Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29, 1903 in Eltham, London. His English father was a stonemason and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light opera singer. The family lived in Weston-super-Mare, Whitehall and St. George in Bristol before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in 1907. He became a United States citizen in 1908.

Delores and Bob in one of the USO Vietnam shows.
Bob and Delores Hope were devout Catholics and received numerous honors for the religious and charitable work. They shared the honor when Cardinal Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles presented them with papal honors from Pope John Paul II: Knight and Dame of St. Gregory the Great with Star. She was only one of four women in the world to be presented the Dame of St. Gregory with Star. They both received the Chancellor Medal from the University of California, Riverside.

In September 1999, Dolores received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award from Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center at their annual Charity Ball at the Waldorf Astoria. She also received the Patronal Medal from the Catholic University of America by Monsignor Bransfield of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. In her hometown, the Bronx, a street was named after her. She was inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame and at the famous New York Botanical Garden.

She has seven Honorary Doctorates. She was the Honorary Mayor of Palm Desert five times, named "Woman of the Year" by the Los Angeles Times and honored with "The Wind Beneath My Wings Award" from the Betty Clooney Foundation. Among her other awards were "Chicago Lady of the Year" from Notre Dame University, the "Eleanor Darnell Carroll Award" from Georgetown University, The Cardinal's Award from Caridnal Mahony and honors from the National Committee of Catholic Women (in Chicago) presented by Cardinal Bernardin. The Helping Hand Organization of Cedars-Sinai Hospital named her "Outstanding Mother of the Year."

Loyola College in Baltimore gave her "The President's Medal." St. Louis University named her "Outstanding Catholic Laywoman." The Holy Family Adoption Service gave her the "Gift of Life Award." Seton Hall College presented her with the "Elizabeth Seton Medal Award" in recognition of her Christian virtues and she is also a recipient of the Humanitarian Scopus Award and the Coveted Criss Award.

And because of her Italian and Irish heritage, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Humanitarian Services by the National Italian American Foundation; the Distinguished Leadership Award by the American Ireland Fund, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. 

To sum up her life: WOW!

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