Dolores Hope said that laughter played a huge part in the longevity of both Bob and herself. And at 102 years of age on May 27, I would say she is a qualified expert on the topic.
Her life has been exceptional: She is a wife and mother; singer and sage; homemaker and chairman of the board; recording artist and television personality — and has a pretty good golf game. As the wife of arguably the 20th century’s most recognizable comedy legend, Dolores Hope was often referred to as the First Lady of comedy, but was perhaps best known for a life dedicated to giving to others. Much like her husband, she was the living definition of her name — HOPE. “Fa i fate, no parole” in Italian means, “Do it, don’t talk about it.” Deeds always trumpet louder than words and Dolores Hope was the embodiment of that adage. Her life was an example of doing generous acts to elevate and improve the lives of others.
In 1998, she realized a dream she had held as a five-year old growing up in the Bronx (where now a street has been named after her – Dolores DeFina Hope), by recording her first album “Now and Then,” at 89 years of age. Other albums followed, “Somewhere in Time,” “Songs of World War II,” “Hopes for the Holidays” with Bob, “That’s Love” and “Young at Heart,” which was dedicated to Bob.
In the 1930s, Dolores changed her name from DeFina to Reade and began a professional singing career on the New York night-club circuit. It was after just such a performance at the Vogue Club in 1933 that Dolores met a young actor/comedian who came with his friend George Murphy to “hear a pretty girl sing.” That young man was Bob Hope.
As Bob told it, “She had a low, husky voice – soft and sweet. She sang ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’ and ‘Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?’ That did it! From then on I was at the Vogue Club every night, waiting to take Dolores home. A few months later we tied the knot.” They celebrated their 69th anniversary before his death in July 2003.
Dolores joined her husband in his vaudeville act, touring the major stages together until Dolores decided to exchange her professional singing career for a role of mother, singing lullabies to her children Linda, Tony, Kelly and Nora.
In the late 1940s, Dolores returned to the stage when she began helping her husband entertain the U.S. troops around the world as well, eventually appearing as a guest on Bob’s highly rated NBC television specials, making her one of the most beloved and recognizable performers in the world. In 1990, she became the only female allowed to entertain the troops during Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia.
Dolores Hope received numerous humanitarian honors, tributes and decorations. Having seven Honorary Doctorates, she has been honored by Notre Dame University, Georgetown University, Loyola College, St. Louis University, Seton Hall College, as well as Catholic University of America by Monsignor Bransfield of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C., to name only a few. Dolores has been 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. In addition to other prestigious tiles including “Chicago Lady of the Year,” “Outstanding Mother of the Year,” and “Outstanding Catholic Laywoman.”
It was with great pleasure and pride as Bob stood on the sidelines when Dolores received her stars on the Hollywood and Palm Springs Walk of Fame. She was also inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame and she takes great pride in the fact that the permanent installation of the Tree Peony Collection at the famous New York Botanical Garden bears her name.
Highlights of the past few years have included sponsoring/ christening the USNS Bob Hope (AK-300) in New Orleans, the unveiling of a new C-17 – “The Spirit of Bob Hope” — in Santa Monica, opening the Bob Hope International Airport in Burbank, and receiving the news that the Ellis Island Library would be renamed The Bob Hope Memorial Library after its current renovations were completed on May 29, 2009 (what would have been Bob’s 106th Birthday).
Webster’s defines a “lady” as a woman of refinement; deserving of praise, respect and homage. Dolores Hope is, in every sense of the word, a lady!