“She was the first lady of the USO,” musical-comedy star Carol Channing said. “They didn’t come any more patriotic, caring or talented than Dolores.”
She was born Dolores DeFina in 1909 in New York’s Harlem to an Italian father and Irish mother and grew up in the Bronx. Her diction faintly echoed the Bronx upbringing.
“My father died when I was very young, and there was just my mother, my sister and me,” she remarked in 1982. “Were we a needy family? I always like what General Eisenhower said: ‘We were poor and didn’t know it.’”
She began singing early, worked as a model and a Ziegfeld showgirl, and at 20 sang with George Olson’s band. She adopted the name Dolores Reade, borrowed from stage actress Florence Reed. In her 80s, Mrs. Hope revived her singing career, recording three albums of old and new standards and appearing at New York’s Rainbow and Stars as a guest with Rosemary Clooney.
Aside from overseeing two homes— the 18,000-square-foot mansion in North Hollywood and the 25,000-square-foot hilltop home in Palm Springs — Mrs. Hope worked indefatigably for numerous charities. From 1969 to 1976 she served as president of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert, Calif., then becoming chairwoman.
In 1982, she explained her philosophy: “I like being with people, but I also need to have my time alone. I think it’s terribly important to have some time during the day when you stop and take all the energy that you have given out and pull it back in, find the source of your energy. Then you work from there.”
Associated Press writer Derrik J. Lang contributed to this report.