Dolores Hope, wife of Bob Hope, dies at 102

September 19, 2011

Dolores Hope, who throughout her 69-year marriage to comedian Bob Hope oversaw their charitable giving and played a key role in establishing the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., has died. She was 102.

Mrs. Hope died Sept. 19 at her home in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, publicist Harlan Boll said. No cause of death was reported.

In the late 1960s, the Hopes donated 80 acres near their future Palm Springs estate for the medical center, which opened in 1971. They became “the driving forces behind the creation and long-term growth” of the medical facility, the center said on its Web site.

She served as chairwoman of the center’s board for years, and he 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.

When her husband died in 2003 — two months after turning 100 — Mrs. Hope declined to estimate how many millions they had given or raised for charity. She did say most of it involved young people.

A great deal of their fortune came from vast property holdings in the San Fernando Valley. At Bob Hope’s death, their wealth had been estimated at as much as $500 million.

In 2009, on her 100th birthday, she attended a party in the back yard of the Toluca Lake home that she and her husband bought in 1938. At the event, daughter Linda Hope theorized that laughter in the family home contributed to her parents’ long lives.

She was born Dolores DeFina on May 27, 1909, in New York, and grew up in the Bronx.

During the 1930s, she sang in nightclubs using the stage name of Dolores Reade and met Bob Hope when he caught a New York show. After a brief courtship, they married in 1934 and were soon sharing the vaudeville stage.

While Mrs. Hope raised their four adopted children, her husband’s career took off and he was often away.

“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,’ ” Mrs. Hope told the Palm Springs Desert Sun in 1995.

To mark that half-century, she gave him a paperweight inscribed “Don’t think these three weeks haven’t been fun.”


Bob and Dolores Hope. (Courtesy of LA Times )

Bob later said he enjoyed the stability of having a home to return to. He recalled how his children would listen to his jokes while Mrs. Hope, who was Catholic, decided whether they were appropriate for a family audience.

“I learned to temper my humor in those years,” he said. “Dolores was a tough critic.”

During the same interview, Mrs. Hope said, “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.”

In the late 1940s, Mrs. Hope began performing in her husband’s famed overseas tours to entertain U.S. troops and later sang on many of his NBC television specials.

When Bob went to Saudi Arabia to entertain American troops in 1990, he was forced to leave many women out of the show. An exception was made for Mrs. Hope, who was allowed to sing “White Christmas” to troops on Christmas Eve.

In addition to her daughter, Linda, she is survived by another daughter, Nora Somers; a son, Kelly; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. A son, Anthony, died in 2004.

— Los Angeles Times

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