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Barbara Sinatra dies at 90: From showgirl to philanthropist

Barbara Sinatra, the fourth wife of legendary American singer Frank Sinatra, has died of natural causes at her California home. In her later years, her philanthropy raised millions of dollars to help abused children.

Barbara Sinatra and Tony Lobianco (picture alliance/dpa/Zumapress)

Barbara Sinatra (left) at the Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational fundraiser in 2006 with organizer Tony Lobianco (right)

Sinatra passed away Tuesday surrounded by her friends and family at her home in Rancho Mirage, California. She was 90. The news was announced by John Thoresen, director of the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center.

She was born Barbara Blakely in Bosworth, New Jersey, in 1927. She was a Las Vegas showgirl and a former model, as well as a prominent Palm Springs, California socialite even before she crossed paths with actor and singer Frank "Ol' Blue Eyes" Sinatra. Well before marrying the legendary crooner, she was interested in helping those less fortunate and used her connections to Hollywood royalty, including entertainers such as Dinah Shore, Marilyn Monroe, and Tony Curtis, to raise vast sums for a number of charitable causes.

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Barbara and Frank Sinatra (picture alliance/dpa/AP Photo)

Barbara and Frank Sinatra had been married for 22 years before his passing in 1998

Legendary couples

Barbara met actor and singer Frank Sinatra through her previous husband, Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers comedy team. The Sinatras married in 1976, Frank aged 60 and Barbara aged 49. They had been married 22 years when he died of a heart attack in 1998. 

Frank had been previously married to Nancy Sinatra, mother of Nancy and Frank Jr, as well as actresses Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow. 

Barbara recalled in her 2011 memoir "Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank Sinatra" that Frank didn't ask her to marry him until she threatened to leave him. Their union proved to be the longest of Frank's marriages.  

Giving back

In 1986, Frank and Barbara Sinatra founded the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center near Palm Springs. The nonprofit provides therapy and other support to young victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

More than 20,000 children have been treated at the center since it opened and thousands more through videos it provides.

Barbara Sinatra remained active at the center until recently, Thoresen said, adding that she pushed for a video program last year and made sure the children had anything they needed.

In later years, as Mrs. Sinatra, Thoresen recalled that "she would say, 'I need a half-million dollars for this, so you do a concert and I get half the money.'"

She is survived by her son, Robert Oliver Marx, from her marriage to Zeppo Marx, and a granddaughter, Carina Blakeley Marx. 

dv/kl (AP, Reuters)


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