TOLUCA LAKE, Calif.—Dolores DeFina Hope, singer, philanthropist and wife of comedian Bob Hope, died today at the age of 102 of natural causes. She was born in Harlem, N.Y. in 1909 and died at her home in Toluca Lake, Calif. of natural causes. Dolores Reade was singing at the Vogue Club in Manhattan when she was introduced to rising Broadway star Bob Hope. As he described it, it was “love at first song.” They were married for nearly 70 years. The Hopes moved to California in the late '30s so that Bob could pursue his film and radio careers. They built a home in Toluca Lake, where she lived until her death. Bob and Dolores adopted four children, and Dolores became an advocate for adoption, serving on the board of Holy Family Adoption Services in Los Angeles. She was a lifelong Catholic and a proud member of St. Charles Borreomeo Church in North Hollywood, where she gave much time and financial help over the years to various parish causes including the building of the Lady of Hope chapel and the Holy Family Social Service Center. Throughout her life, Dolores was devoted to Catholic causes, especially those directly benefiting the poor.
She and Bob were members of Lakeside Golf Course, where she was runner-up to the women’s club champion for several years. The Hopes also had a home in the Palm Springs area since the mid 1940s. Dolores worked with renowned architect John Lautner, designing their most recent home in the Southridge Estates. The house quickly became a showplace and a venue for their various desert social and charitable events, including parties in conjunction with the annual “Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.” Dolores was founding president of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert, and she was intensely involved in the building and décor of the hospital. From 1968 to 1976, she served as president of its board, and since 1977, she served as its chairman, becoming chairman emeritus in the 1990s.
Though she accompanied her husband on many of his USO trips to entertain the troops, usually closing the show with a touching rendition of “Silent Night,” she really had put her singing career on hold to be at his side and to raise their children. But at the age of 83, she revisited a long postponed singing career, recording several albums and performing with Rosemary Clooney in New York at “Rainbow and Stars” for several weeks and receiving rave reviews. Throughout her life, Dolores was a gracious hostess and great asset to her world-famous husband. She made her last visit to the servicemen and women during “Operation Desert Storm,” performing “White Christmas” from the back of a truck in the middle of the Saudi desert. She was 84 at the time.
Dolores Hope was feted with six honorary degrees and many awards for her humanitarian efforts, including: The Lifetime Achievement Award for Humanitarian Services by the National Italian American Foundation; the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (for her contributions to Irish heritage); the Magnificat Medal (1987) from Mundelein College in Chicago for her outstanding family, social, philanthropic and religious leadership; the Big Shoulders Humanitarian Award; the St. Martin de Porres Award from the Southern Dominican Foundation in New Orleans (1990); Bob Hope 5 Star Civilian Award at Valley Forge Military Academy; Spirit of America Award from the Institute for the Study of Americans for community service and commitment to her country; Living Legacy Award for humanitarian efforts in San Diego; she participated in the dedication of the Dolores Hope All Faiths Chapel in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. at the Air Force Enlisted Widow's Home in Bob Hope Village. In 2001, she was honored by the American Ireland Fund for a lifetime of work benefiting humanity and presented with a beautiful Waterford Harp.
Dolores Hope has been the honorary mayor of Palm Springs five times and named “Woman of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times. In 2008, she was honored by the Ladies Professional Golf Association with its Patty Berg Award for her contributions to women's golf. Like her husband, she was an avid golfer.
Hollywood stars spoke to Canyon News about Mrs. Hope’s death on Monday. Beverly Hills socialite and actress Constance Towers Gavin tells Canyon News, “Dolores’s dedication to the troops has been amazing. She was an active person, who used her celebrity to help others. She was definitely one of a kind. We knew the Hopes quite well and loved them. We were together at the Annenberg's New Year's Eve party for many years. Dolores loved to sing and entertain everyone and she was wonderful! She was lovely. Everyone loved her. She will be missed.” “I’ll never forget what a wonderful singer she was. In fact, that’s how Bob and Dolores met. It seems to me that they were always laughing,” said comedian Rip Taylor.
“Batman” star, actress, author and humanitarian Julie Newmar tells Canyon News, “I had such a huge admiration for both [Bob and Dolores Hope] of them. The quality it takes to get just one year older, says a lot about that fact that she lived to 102. What a glorious woman and life!” “Bob passed at 100 and Dolores at 102. Dolores once said that their longevity could be credited to laughter and they certainly had a lot of that in their lives,” said actress Alison Arngrim, who starred as Nellie Oleson on the hit 1970s series “Little House On The Prairie.”
“She was the First Lady of the USO. They didn’t come any more patriotic, caring or talented than Dolores,” concluded actress Carol Channing, who starred on Broadway in “Hello Dolly!” in the title role.
Dolores May Philomena Veronica DeFina Hope is survived by her children Linda Hope of Toluca Lake, Calif., William Kelly Hope of Oakland, Calif., and her grandchildren Zachary Hope, Miranda Hope, Andrew Hope Lande and great-grandson Kai Smith.
Services are private and burial will be at the Bob Hope Memorial Garden, San Fernando Mission - next to Bob.