Maria Cole, the widow of pioneering jazz singer, pianist and civil rights icon Nat "King" Cole and mother to Natalie, has died of complications due to cancer, her family said. She was 89.
Born Maria Hawkins Ellington in Boston, Cole was a jazz singer in her own right when she married Nat in 1948. The two performed around the world together and had five children, including Grammy Award-winning singer Natalie Cole and actress and music producer Carole Cole. Carole also died of cancer in 2009 at the age of 64.
"Our mom was in a class all by herself," Maria's surviving children said in a statement Thursday. "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 lived out the last years of her life in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida. Private memorial services are planned to be held in Glendale, California.
(Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)