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Barbara Sinatra, last wife of Frank Sinatra, dies at 90

Barbara Sinatra, last wife of Frank Sinatra, dies at 90
Barbara and Frank Sinatra in 1988 at Milton Berle's 80th birthday party in Los Angeles. Barbara Sinatra, a prominent philanthropist and advocate for abused children, died Tuesday at her Rancho Mirage home. She was 90. (Associated Press)

Barbara Sinatra, the fourth wife of legendary singer Frank Sinatra and a prominent philanthropist and advocate for abused children, has died at 90.

Barbara Sinatra died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, said John Thoresen, director of the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center.

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With her husband's help, Barbara Sinatra founded the nonprofit center in Rancho Mirage in 1986 to provide therapy and other support to young victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

In the years since, Thoresen said, more than 20,000 children have been treated at the center and hundreds of thousands more throughout the world through videos it provides.

A former model and Las Vegas showgirl, Barbara Sinatra was a prominent Palm Springs socialite in her own right before she married Sinatra in 1976. They were the first of only three couples to be married at the historic estate of Walter and Leonore Annenberg in Rancho Mirage.

They remained wed until his death in 1998.

She met the singer through her previous husband, Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers comedy team. Marx and Frank Sinatra had been close friends and neighbors in Rancho Mirage until she left Marx.

It was her third marriage, Sinatra's fourth and the most enduring union for both.

Frank Sinatra had previously been married to Nancy Sinatra (mother of their children Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina), as well as actresses Ava Gardner, who died in 1990, and Mia Farrow.

Over the years, Frank and Barbara Sinatra played an active role in the children's center.

"Frank would come over and sit and read to the kids," Thoresen said of the sometimes volatile entertainer.

"But the best way she used Frank," he added with a chuckle, "was she would say, 'I need a half-million dollars for this, so you do a concert and I get half the money.'"

Thoresen said Barbara Sinatra remained active at the center until recently, raising funds and visiting with the children. She pushed for creation of the video program just last year and made sure the children had anything they needed, Thoresen said.

Born Barbara Blakeley in Bosworth, Mo., she moved to Long Beach and began a modeling career. She was married to Robert Oliver and, after a divorce, to Marx.

In 2011, Barbara Sinatra co-wrote "Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank," which chronicles her life with Sinatra.

She is survived by a son, Robert Oliver Marx, and a granddaughter, Carina Blakeley Marx.

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A Times staff writer contributed to the report.

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