RANCHO MIRAGE – Barbara Sinatra, a longtime Coachella Valley resident and philanthropist, died today at her home in Rancho Mirage at the age of 90.
The fourth and final wife of entertainer Frank Sinatra died of natural causes, surrounded by family and friends, according to family spokesman John E. Thoresen, director of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation. Last
rites were administered by Father Howard Lincoln of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palm Desert.
The onetime model and Las Vegas showgirl tied the knot with Frank Sinatra in 1976 at Walter Annenberg’s Rancho Mirage estate, the first of only three couples to be married at what is now known as Sunnylands. They traveled the world together until his death in 1998, and she will be buried next to him at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City.
In 1985, the couple began raising funds to establish the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children in Rancho Mirage, which advocates for children suffering the effects of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. The nonprofit center on the Eisenhower Medical Center campus also focuses on prevention, community education and breaking the generational cycle of abuse and has provided treatment for more than 20,000 children through age 18 since its inception, according to Thoresen.
Sinatra chaired the children’s center’s Board of Directors and advocated on behalf of abused children throughout the United States and abroad. She also served on the Board of Trustees of the Princess Grace Foundation.
In 2016, the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation developed a series of animated videos entitled “The Protect Yourself Rules” for children in grades K-6. The videos are distributed to teachers, school counselors, after-school programs and parents, free of charge. In the past 11 months, the program has been shown to more than 700,000 children throughout the United States and in many foreign countries, according to Thoresen.
A 2011 book,”Lady Blue Eyes … My Life with Frank,” details Sinatra’s humble beginnings in Missouri, her life with her iconic husband and her philanthropic efforts.
Born Barbara Blakeley in Bosworth, Missouri, her father Willis owned Blakeley’s General Store on Bosworth’s Main Street. When she was 18, her family moved to Long Beach and she married Robert Oliver and began her modeling career. Following their divorce, she wed actor-comedian Zeppo Marx in 1959 in Las Vegas and they settled in Palm Springs, where she began her journey as an activist for children’s causes.
Janice Lyle, director of Sunnylands Center & Gardens, said Sinatra would be missed.
“Memories of Barbara Sinatra at Sunnylands will be long lasting and deeply treasured,” she said. “Her friendship and humanitarian efforts are warmly remembered by the trustees and staff.”
Palm Desert-based nonprofit United Way of the Desert released a statement saying Sinatra’s “philanthropic spirit and dedication to our valley’s most vulnerable children will forever be cherished in our community.”
Former congresswoman Mary Bono said Sinatra was a “wonderful, beautiful & passionate advocate for many important causes.”
Larry King took to Twitter to eulogize Sinatra, calling her “a dear, dear friend” and “wonderful person,” as did actors James Woods and Joe Mantegna.
Woods recalled how his mother chatted with Sinatra at a dinner at her home, saying she “was gracious, warm and lovely.”
Mantegna wrote: “Frank now has his own angel to sing to in heaven. Rest in peace Barbara Sinatra.”
Grammy Award-winning music producer Quincy Jones wrote: “RIP to my dear friend Barbara Sinatra. A trusted & steady presence by Frank’s side, your grace & beauty (inside & out) will endure forever.”
Sinatra, who also maintained homes in Beverly Hills and Malibu, is survived by her son, Robert Marx, his wife, Hillary Roberts, and a granddaughter Carina Blakeley Marx.
Her funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 1 at Sacred Heart Church, and will be open to the public, according to Lee Rice of Eisenhower Medical Center.
The family requested that memorial gifts be directed to the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270.