Bar­bara Si­na­tra, Frank's wife and phi­lan­thropist, dies

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Bar­bara Si­na­tra, the fourth wife of leg­endary singer Frank Si­na­tra and a prom­i­nent chil­dren's ad­vo­cate and phi­lan­thropist who raised mil­lions of dol­lars to help abused young­sters, died Tues­day. She was 90. Si­na­tra died of nat­u­ral causes at her Ran­cho Mi­rage, Cal­i­for­nia, home sur­rounded by fam­ily and friends, said John Thore­sen, di­rec­tor of the Bar­bara Si­na­tra Chil­dren's Cen­ter.

With her hus­band's help, she founded a non­profit cen­ter in Ran­cho Mi­rage in 1986 to pro­vide ther­apy and other sup­port to young vic­tims of phys­i­cal, sex­ual and emo­tional abuse. In the years since, Thore­sen said, more than 20,000 chil­dren have been treated at the cen­ter and hun­dreds of thou­sands more world­wide through videos it pro­vides.

A for­mer model and Las Ve­gas show­girl, Bar­bara Si­na­tra was a prom­i­nent Palm Springs so­cialite in her own right be­fore she mar­ried her hus­band in 1976, when he was 60 and she 49. They re­mained wed un­til his death at 82 in 1998. It was her third mar­riage, Si­na­tra's fourth and the most en­dur­ing union for both.

She met Si­na­tra through her sec­ond hus­band, Zeppo Marx of the fa­mous Marx Broth­ers com­edy team. The cou­ple had been close friends and neigh­bors with Si­na­tra in Ran­cho Mi­rage un­til she left Marx for the singer in 1973. Frank Si­na­tra, then sin­gle, had pre­vi­ously been mar­ried to his teenage sweet­heart Nancy Si­na­tra, the mother of their chil­dren Nancy, Tina and the late Frank Jr.); Ava Gard­ner, who died in 1990; and Mia Far­row.

Rais­ing funds

A no­to­ri­ous wom­an­izer through­out much of his life, Frank Si­na­tra didn't ask his fourth wife to marry him un­til she threat­ened to leave if he didn't, she re­called in her 2011 me­moir, "Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank Si­na­tra." Both played prom­i­nent roles at the chil­dren's cen­ter af­ter she founded it in 1986.

"Frank would come over and sit and read to the kids," Thore­sen said of the some­times volatile en­ter­tainer. "But the best way she used Frank," he added with a chuckle, "was she would say, 'I need a half-mil­lion dol­lars for this, so you do a con­cert and I get half the money.'"

She re­mained ac­tive at the cen­ter un­til re­cently, push­ing for cre­ation of the video pro­gram just last year, rais­ing funds and drop­ping by of­ten to make sure the chil­dren had what they needed, Thore­sen said. Al­ready a so­cialite in the Palm Springs area through her mar­riage to Marx, Si­na­tra min­gled with such celebri­ties as Di­nah Shore, Mar­i­lyn Monroe and Tony Cur­tis, rais­ing money for nu­mer­ous char­i­ta­ble causes be­fore es­tab­lish­ing the chil­dren's cen­ter.

Those years were a far cry from ear­lier, more mod­est ones she de­scribed in her me­moir. Born Bar­bara Blakely in Bos­worth, Mis­souri, she re­called grow­ing up poor and friend­less. She moved with her fam­ily to Wi­chita, Kansas, when she was 10 and to Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, at 18. It was in Wi­chita where, like mil­lions of other teenage girls in the 1940s, she fell in love with a voice on the ra­dio. "Frank Si­na­tra had al­ways been part of my life - from when I first heard the singer ev­ery­body was talk­ing about as a 15-year-old butcher's daugh­ter," she said. Her first mar­riage, to a Si­na­tra-style singer, was brief as he strug­gled to find work. They split shortly af­ter the birth of her son and she mar­ried Marx in 1959. She is sur­vived by her son, Robert Oliver Marx, and a grand-daugh­ter, Carina Blake­ley Marx. Fu­neral ar­range­ments are pend­ing. — AP

In this file photo, Bar­bara Si­na­tra ap­pears at the Na­tional Ital­ian Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion's 33rd An­niver­sary Awards Gala in Wash­ing­ton. — AP

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