Maria Cole, the widow of singing legend Nat “King” Cole, the mother of Natalie Cole and in her own right a former Big Band singer, died Tuesday in Boca Raton, Fla., after a brief battle with cancer, reports She was 89.


“Our mom was in a class all by herself. She epitomized class, elegance, and truly defined what it is to be a real lady,” said Natalie Cole and her siblings, Timolin and Casey Cole, in a statement.


Maria and Nat King Cole were married from 1948 until his death from lung cancer in 1965, shortly after he finished filming the comedy Western “Cat Ballou,” with Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda.


Maria Hawkins Cole was born in Boston and moved to North Carolina to live with an aunt after her mother died in childbirth, the family said. Maria sang with the Count Basie Band before moving on to the Duke Ellington Orchestra, as its vocalist until 1946, when she became a soloist. She met Nat “King” Cole at New York’s Club Zanzibar.

Besides her three children, Maria Cole is survived by a sister, two sons-in-law and six grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Nat King Cole Generation Hope Inc.

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