Joe Roberts will never forget the first time he met Bob Hope.
It was December 1944, and Roberts, an Army infantryman seriously
wounded during World War II, was returning home aboard the U.S.
hospital ship Comfort after losing a leg.
Hope, who was on hand to meet the ship when it docked in San
Pedro, sat down next to Roberts’ bed and the two chatted.
“He thanked me for what I’d given the country,” recalled Roberts,
83. “It really meant a lot to me to have him there.”
Roberts, a Burbank optician, was among those who remembered Hope
for his compassion and generosity. The legendary entertainer died
Sunday night at his Toluca Lake home of complications from pneumonia.
He was 100.
“He was as large in this community as he was in the world, and I
think Burbank has been a great beneficiary,” former Burbank mayor
Michael Hastings said Tuesday. “He shared his talents and his
treasures with our community.”
Hope’s ties to Burbank were numerous.
In 1973, he was named the city’s honorary mayor, and in 1989, the
city renamed a portion of Catalina Street near NBC Studios to Bob
In April 1993, those studios were dedicated in honor of Hope’s
90th birthday and his more than 50-year association with the network.
In 1987, Hope performed at the Starlight Bowl and later hosted a
dinner party at the Lakeside Golf Club to help raise money to build a
veterans’ monument in Burbank.
Hope and his wife, Dolores, were philanthropists who donated more
than $1 million to the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center
foundation. The facility’s conference center bears their names.
Retired Burbank Police Lt. Don Brown recalled his first encounter
with Hope, which took place more than 40 years ago. Brown was a
patrol officer working the graveyard shift early one morning in 1962
when he observed a man walking down an alley between Olive and
Angeleno avenues twirling a golf club. The man was accompanied by a
woman scribbling on a notepad. A limousine with the lights turned off
followed closely behind.
Brown didn’t quite know what to make of the situation, and radioed
headquarters. An old-timer named Jack McKay got on the radio and
barked: “Don’t worry, rookie. That’s Bob Hope.”
Hope embraced the small-screen medium, where he played to his
widest audience ever with a series of well-publicized specials. His
last NBC special, “Laughing with the Presidents,” which focused on
his long friendships with many occupants of the White House, appeared
in late 1996.
Hope was well-known for entertaining U.S. troops around the world
in USO tours that began during World War II and continued for more
than 40 years.
Hope is survived by his wife, Dolores; sons Anthony and Kelly;
daughters Linda and Nora Somers; and four grandchildren.