Dolores Hope spent most of her life giving to others: her husband, Bob , her children Linda, Tony, Kelly and Nora, her four grandchildren, and numerous charitable causes. In 1993 at the age of 84, she took some time to do something for herself and for her fans, she recorded her first album “Now and Then” and a new recording artist was born.
Other albums followed, “Somewhere in Time: Songs of World War II,” “Hopes for the Holidays” with Bob, “That’s Love” and “Young at Heart” dedicated to Bob.
As a five-year-old growing up in the Bronx, Dolores DeFina knew she wanted to be a singer.
In the1930s, Dolores on the advice of an agent, changed her name to Dolores Reade (after Broadway actress Florence Reed) and began her professional singing career on the New York nightclub 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.” There must have been something special in that voice as the Hopes celebrated their 69th anniversary just before his death in July 2003.
Dolores soon left the nightclub circuit to join her husband in his vaudeville act. The couple toured the major stages together until Dolores exchanged her professional singing career for a role as mother, singing lullabies to her children. She also kept in good voice entertaining friends at parties.
In the late 1940s, Dolores returned to the stage when she began helping her husband entertain U.S. troops around the world. She became one of the most beloved performers in the show. She sang and the soldiers loved her. During Christmas 1966 in Vietnam, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Dolores sang ” “Silent Night.” She sang to a hushed audience and when she finished was treated to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
Dolores continued to tour with Bob, and in 1990, one of their trips was to Saudi Arabia to entertain the troops in Operation Desert Storm. She was the only female entertainer allowed to perform in Saudi Arabia. Dolores has also made 18 guest appearances on Bob’s NBC television specials over the years.
Dolores attributes her recording career to the persistent encouragement of friends like Rosemary Clooney and family, especially Bob, who quipped, “I wish she’d get steady work.”
With all her albums, Dolores provides her listeners with a musical treat that spans the generations from the 1930s to today. She combined a 30s style with today’s technology to produce a pop sound that is truly timeless. She drew from her extensive musical background when selecting the songs. She particularly loved the interplay and exchanges with the talented musicians at the recording sessions. Nick Perito (Perry Como’s gifted arranger/conductor) who produced most of her albums, worked with arrangers Bob Alberti, John Oddo and long-time accompanist Geoff Clarkson, to ensure that every note is perfect.
“Fa i fate, no parole” is an old Italian phrase that was the late champion Rocky Marciano’s favorite. It 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.
She was a wife and mother, singer and sage, homemaker, chairman of the board, recording artist, and her golf game wasn’t bad, either.
One of her finest moments in golf was at a couples’ tournament in Palm Springs, where, upon completion of their round, a voice on the loudspeaker announced the scores: Bob Hope 78, Dolores Hope 76!
Some recent highlights of the past few years 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, California, and sharing the applause from the members of congress as Bob was made an honorary veteran at a celebration in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C. A beaming Bob stood on the sidelines as Dolores received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Palm Springs Walk of Fame.
At St. Charles Borremeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood, Bob and Delores shared honors as Cardinal Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles presented them with papal honors from Pope John Paul II: Knight and Dame of St. Gregory the Great with Star. Dolores is one of four women in the world to have been presented the Dame of St. Gregory the Great with Star. They both received the Chancellor Medal from the University of California, Riverside.
In September 1999, Dolores received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award from Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center at their annual Charity Ball at the Waldorf Astoria. She received the Winnie Palmer Humanitarian Award from the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association and the Patronal Medal from the Catholic University of America by Monsignor Bransfield of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, multiple honors have been bestowed upon her. A street has been named after her, she has been inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame, and at the famous New York Botanical Garden the permanent installation of the Tree Peony Collection bears her name.
Dolores Hope has been honored, feted and esteemed with seven Honorary Doctorates. She 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. Among her other awards are “Chicago Lady of the Year” from Notre Dame University, the “Eleanor Darnell Carroll Award” from Georgetown University, The Cardinal’s Award from Cardinal Mahony, and honors from the National Committee of Catholic Women (in Chicago) presented by Cardinal Bernardin. The Helping Hand Organization of Cedars-Sinai Hospital named her “Outstanding Mother of the Year.”
Loyola College in Baltimore gave her “The President’s Medal.” St. Louis University named her “Outstanding Catholic Laywoman.” The Holy Family Adoption Service gave her the “Gift of Life Award.” Seton Hall College presented her with the “Elizabeth Seton Medal Award” in recognition of her Christian virtues and she is also a recipient of the Humanitarian Scopus Award and the Coveted Criss Award.
Recognized for both her Italian and Irish heritage, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Humanitarian Services by the National Italian American Foundation, the Distinguished Leadership Award by the American Ireland Fund, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. After all this, it is amazing that she had any time left for singing!