Nat King Cole's Widow Has Passed Away
The widow of Nat King Cole, and mother of Natalie Cole, has passed away after a short battle with cancer. Maria Cole, who also sang in a Big Band, died at age 89 in Boca Raton, Florida.
Natalie Cole and her siblings, Timolin and Casey, said in a statement: "Our mom was in a class all by herself. She epitomized class, elegance, and truly defined what it is to be a real lady. We are so blessed and privileged to have inherited the legacy that she leaves behind along with our father. She died how she lived – with great strength, courage and dignity, surrounded by her loving family."
Maria married Nat in 1948, eight years before he became the first African American to host his own network TV show. The man who made classics including “Unforgettable,” “Mona Lisa,” “Smile” and “Nature Boy” famous died in 1965 from lung cancer, not long after he wrapped on the set of Cat Ballou, a comedic Western also starring Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda.
His wife was born in Boston but, after her own mother passed away during childbirth, Maria moved to North Carolina where she studied voice and piano. In hopes of pursuing a music career, she moved to New York where she married a Tuskegee Airman, Spurgeon Ellington, in 1943. Unfortunately, he died during World War II.
She met Nat King Cole at New York’s Club Zanzibar after she sang with both the Count Basie Band and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The statement issued by the family continued by saying: "The couple traveled throughout Europe in the 1950s, and Maria recorded several songs with her husband for Capitol Records and sang at top venues in California and on the East Coast."
The Coles welcomed daughter, Natalie, in 1950 and twins, Timolin and Casey, in 1961. They also adopted another girl, Carol (nicknamed “Cookie”), who died in 2009 while undergoing an operation to donate a kidney to her sister, Natalie.
Maria Cole is survived by her three children, a sister, two sons-in-law and six grandchildren.
Donations can be made on her behalf to the Nat King Cole Generation Hope Inc.
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