Maria Cole, widow of jazz crooner Nat “King” Cole and mother of singer Natalie Cole, died of cancer July 10 at a hospice in Boca Raton, Fla. She was 89.
The death was confirmed by a family representative.
Before and after marrying the singer and piano player, Maria Cole had a long singing career, performing with such band leaders as Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
Maria Hawkins was born in Boston in 1922, and she lived as a child in North Carolina after her mother died, according to the family. She later moved to New York to pursue a music career
According to her family, Ellington heard recordings of Maria Cole singing and hired her as a vocalist with his orchestra. She stayed with him until 1946, when she began soloing at the city’s Club Zanzibar as an opening act for the Mills Brothers. There she met Nat “King” Cole.
The two were married in 1948 by then-U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church.
Maria Cole traveled and performed with her husband throughout the 1950s. After her husband died of cancer in 1965, Maria Cole created the Cole Cancer Foundation.
At the time of her death, Maria Cole lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Survivors include three children, Natalie, Timolin and Casey.