Maria Cole, the widow of Nat King Cole and mother of Natalie Cole, has passed away at the age of 89. She died on Tuesday from cancer at a Boca Raton, FL hospice.

Natalie released a statement on Wednesday, saying "Our mom was in a class all by herself. She epitomized class and 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."

Cole had her first big break in the late-30's singing in New York with Benny Carter's band. She moved on to Count Basie and Fletcher Henderson's bands before hitting the big time singing for Duke Ellington.

Originally married to Tuskegee Airman Spurgeon Ellington, who was killed in a training accident, she met Nat King Cole while opening for the Mills Brothers. They were married in 1948 and remained married until Nat's death from lung cancer in 1965. The couple adopted Carol (Cookie) in 1949, Natalie was born in 1950, adopted Nat Kelly Cole in 1959 and had twins Casey and Timolin in 1961.

After her husband's death, she continued to perform, produced for theater and created the Cole Cancer Foundation.

VVN Music