Jazz singer Maria Cole died Tuesday July 10 after a battle with cancer in Boca Raton, Florida at the age of 89.
While Cole is a former singer for; she is also the widow of singer and the mother of singer Natalie Cole. Natalie released a statement along with her sisters Timolin and Casey saying their mother, “epitomized class and elegance and truly defined what it is to be a real lady. She died how she lived: with great strength, courage, and dignity; surrounded by her loving family.”
She was born Marie Frances Hawkins on August 1, 1922 in Boston, Massachusetts but was raised by an aunt in North Carolina. Hawkins studied voice and piano as a child. After graduating from the Palmer Memorial Institute in 1938 Hawkins returned to Boston where she performed with a jazz orchestra. Later she moved to New York City to perform with the Benny Carter Band.
In 1943, Hawkins became Maria Ellington when she married Tuskegee Airman Spurgeon Ellington; but the marriage was short lived when Ellington was killed in a training flight crash.
Maria and Nat were married on Easter Sunday in 1948. The pair were married until Nat’s death from lung cancer in 1965. It was the second marriage for both singers.
Besides singing with Carter, during her career Marie Cole sang with, , and Duke Ellington before going solo and performing with Nat. After Nat’s death Maria continued to perform , became active in charity work including creating a cancer foundation, and even wrote a play. Marie married for a third time in 1969 when she married Gary DeVore but the couple divorced in 1976.
Marie is survived by daughters Natalie, Timolin, and Casey, sister Charlotte, son-in-laws Gary and Julian, and six grandchildren.