Barbara Sinatra, a well-known philanthropist, and widow of the legendary Frank Sinatra died Tuesday morning, aged 90, at her Rancho Mirage home in California. She is survived by her son Robert Oliver Marx, a granddaughter, and two stepdaughters.
John Thoresen, director of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, confirmed her death saying she died of natural causes surrounded by family and friends in her final moments.
Born, Barbara Blakeley, in 1927 in Bosworth, Missouri, to Charles and Irene Blakeley, she grew up in Wichita, Kansas having moved there as a child with her parents and younger sister Patricia. She attended the Wichita North High School and graduated in 1946.
The former model and showgirl was Sinatra’s fourth and last wife from 1976 until his death in 1998. And, he was her third husband after Robert Harrison Oliver (married 1940-50) and Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers comedy fame (married 1959-73).
Barbara got to know Sinatra through her second husband Marx who was a close friend and neighbor of the famous singer in Rancho Mirage. Sinatra was single at the time having previously been married to his teenage flame Nancy who bore him three children Nancy, Tina, and the late Frank Jr.; the beautiful Ava Gardener who died in 1990; and Mia Farrow.
Talking to the “New York Times” in 2011, Barbara spoke about Sinatra’s drinking habits and his tendency toward violence when under the influence of alcohol but first she defended him calling him a “gentleman” who never made her feel intimidated in his presence.
“I never felt danger around him. He was always very much a gentleman, and he really cared about treating me well. He came from Hoboken, where the streets were very tough. I guess some of that came back when he was drinking.”
Barbara was the beneficiary of Sinatra’s generosity, both in his life and death, inheriting $3.5 million in assets, his Palm Springs, Beverly Hills, and Malibu mansions, rights to his “Trilogy” recordings, most of his material possessions and more.
The “Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center,” a non-profit facility in Rancho Mirage, California, was founded by the singer-philanthropist couple in 1986. The center provides counseling to young traumatized victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Since its inception, the facility has treated more than 20,000 children in-house and hundreds of thousands more across the globe through its video programs, according to Thoresen.
Barabara’s welfare work earned her a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars dedicated to her.