Barbara Sinatra, the prominent philanthropist and widow of legendary singer Frank Sinatra, passed away at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, on Tuesday, July 25. She was 90.
After months of declining health, “she died comfortably surrounded by family and friends at her home,” Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center director John Thoresen said in a statement to The Desert Sun.
Born Barbara Blakely, the Missouri native wed Frank Sinatra in 1976 in a private ceremony at the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage. The two had an enduring and harmonious marriage of 22 years, all the way up to the “Come Fly With Me” singer’s death in 1998.
Barbara moved to Long Beach, California at the age of 18 to begin her modeling career. Soon after, she married Robert Oliver, but they divorced, and then she married Zeppo Marx of the famous Max Bros in 1959. She made quite a prominent figure as a Palm Springs socialite, and after she and Marx divorced, she began dating the mercurial singer and actor Frank Sinatra, who was previously married three times. Barbara published her memoir, “Lady Blue Eyes,” in 2012 recounting her unique life with her husband.
She made the best of her husband’s celebrity status to build the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center to help abused children at the Eisenhower Medical Center. The center was founded in 1986 by Barbara and Frank Sinatra and supported by the Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament, which included shows by Sinatra from 1989 until his final performance ever in 1995.
Barbara Sinatra was moved by the stories of children affected physical, sexual and emotional abuse, which was often pushed under the rug at that time, and dedicated her heart and resources to helping them.
“It opened in 1986 and since that time, over 20,000 children have received beneficial therapy here. There are several child advocacy centers like it around the country, [but] this one is probably most recognized,” explained director Thoresen to the Desert Sun.
Barbara is survived by her only child, Robert Oliver Marx, whom she had in a previous marriage, as well as his wife Hillary Roberts and her granddaughter Carina Blakeley Marx.