Nancy Sinatra Sr., the first wife of Frank Sinatra and mother of his three children has peacefully died on Friday at the age of 101. Her daughter, Nancy Sinatra Jr. took to Twitter to pay tribute to her late mother. She wrote, “My mother passed away peacefully tonight at the age of 101. She was blessing and the light of my life. Godspeed, Momma. Thank you for everything.”

Nancy Senior was born as Nancy Rose Barbato in 1917 in New Jersey to a working-class Italian-American family. 

You may have listened to Frank’s music, but you may not know that this woman made him what he is recognized as today. Paying tribute to the influential woman, we have collected 5 facts about her that you may not have known. 

Rags to Riches Transition

Nancy met an unknown jazz singer, Frank Sinatra on Jersey Shore as a teenager and fell in love with him. The love birds eventually got married in 1939 when Nancy was 22 and Frank was 24. Together, the couple shared the beaming pride of three children, Nancy Jr. (born in 1980), Frank Jr. (born in 1944) and Tina (born in 1948). 

As both were in the struggling phase, just two days after their wedding, they had to return to their respective jobs, where Frank worked as a singing waiter and Nancy as a secretary in a printing plant. When Nancy was doing a cleaner’s job for Frank, his career took off gradually, which followed unparalleled fame and fortune, record sales and motion pictures.

A Woman Behind a Successful Man

When she and Frank first met, he was just an ordinary man who sang and played ukulele but had great aspirations to make it big someday. Nancy was the one, who understood his passion and inspired him to live his dream. To be precise, Mrs. Sinatra’s life was like an ordinary working women, struggling to manage family and children in the 30s and 40s. 

She cooked vegetarian spaghetti sauce to save money on meat, sewed the clothes herself for family, encouraged her husband’s dreams and even traveled with him on the road. One of the interesting facts to be noted was she made bow ties that he wore in performance and sewed new ones each time after hysterical fans ripped one from his neck. But, all she got in return was a series of infidelities. 

Painful divorce

With all the fame and fortune, a string of extramarital romances which became fodder for gossip columns also came along. She endured rumors of his infidelity with stars like Lana Turner and Marilyn Maxwell. The rumor became undeniable humiliation when he left her for one of Hollywood’s celebrated beauties, Ava Gardner. 

She wept all night quietly alone in a room in their opulent home and had a hard time letting her love go. Anyway, she sacrificed her love for his sake, at least for his happiness. Within a week of their divorce in 1961, Frank married Gardner, and she got custody of their three kids. She later witnessed highly public broken engagements of her ex-husband to Lauren Bacall and Juliet Prowse. For a short time from 1966 to 1968, he was married to Mia Farrow and finally settled with Barbara Marx in 1976, until his death in 1998. 

Eternal bond

What was perhaps less known was that Sinatra continued visiting her even after their marriage ended. They were pretty close to each other through late night phone calls and the genial family dinners on many occasions like birthdays and holidays. The routine continued through the end of his marriage to Gardner and numerous mishaps, like his career reversals and kidnapping and the eventual safe return of their son, Frank Jr. in 1963. Still, hardships didn’t end there as Frank faced a number of high-profile failed relationships. But, she never remarried rather she continued to be his good friend and confidante until his death in 1998. In the public eye, they were the exes, but the bonding lasted forever! 

Away from the fame 

After the divorce, Nancy devoted herself to family and her celebrity friends, mainly withdrawing her life from the limelight. She is credited, under the name Nancy Barbato on the IMDb with just two TV and film appearances, including her daughter, Nancy’s 1975 concert film, Nancy and Lee in Las Vegas and her friend Dinah Shore’s talk show in 1974. In later years, she became known as Nancy Sr., after her daughter, Nancy Jr became a singing star on her own right. Her younger daughter, Tina has also made her mark in the entertainment industry as a singer, actor, and film producer. And her only son, Frank Jr., who also followed in his father footsteps becoming a singer and songwriter died of cardiac arrest at the age of 72, in 2016.

Rest in peace Mrs. Sinatra. You will always remain in our heart and memory. 

What do you have to say about the sacrifices she made for her husband? Tell us in the comments.