Several media outlets have confirmed the sad news that Maria Cole, the widow of legendary jazz crooner Nat King Cole and mother to singer Natalie Cole, died this week in Florida after a brief battle with cancer. She was 89.
Maria’s children, Natalie, Timolin, and Casey Cole, released the following statement Tuesday:
“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,” the Coles’ statement said.
Per Wikipedia, Maria was born in Boston in 1922 and lived as a child in North Carolina after her mother died.
Before tying-the-knot with Nat, Maria Cole had her own long singing career, performing with Benny Carter Band, Count Basie Band, and Duke Ellington Orchestra, among others.
She began soloing at New York’s Club Zanzibar in 1946 where she eventually met Nat King Cole. The two married in 1948 and soon after began touring together.
“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,” said the family statement. After her husband’s death, Maria did charity work as well as briefly co-hosted a local daytime TV talk show in Los Angeles.
Following Nat’s death from tobacco related throat cancer in 1965, Maria Cole created the Cole Cancer Foundation.
People magazine reports that Maria will be buried next to her husband at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, adding that she had been “surrounded by family” when she lost her battle with cancer on Tuesday.
Survivors include children Natalie, Timolin and Casey Cole; six grandchildren; and a sister.