Frank’s mother Dolly was a presence throughout his life—in fact, he referred to her as “The Force.” She was on his mind right up until the end, according to The New York Post, which reported Frank’s last words as being, “Oh, dear Lord. Oh, mother.”
Born on December 26, 1896, Natalie Catherine “Dolly” Garavente Sinatra moved to America from the Italian port town of Genoa with her family at a very young age.
In 1912, Dolly met 18-year old Antonio ‘Marty’ Sinatra, and would sneak into boxing matches dressed as a boy to watch him fight. Her parents, who were considered to be of a higher class than Marty, detested the relationship. Dolly being Dolly, that just made her love him more.
She was known to hold a grudge, and had a notably foul mouth… even by Hoboken standards. But in addition to colorful language, Dolly spoke fluent English and several Italian dialects, and had the ability to read and write—unlike her husband.
Frank Sinatra’s singing skills came from Dolly and Marty, who were both talented singers. Dolly was also known for her tenacity and organizational skills.
During the First World War she volunteered to become a nurse—but being a mother, she was turned down.
Soon after that, Dolly Sinatra chained herself to Hoboken town hall in 1919, as part of the campaign for women’s votes. Eventually she became head of the local Democratic ward. The Irish, who ran Hoboken at the time, courted Dolly’s influence to buy the Italian votes. She provided people with jobs, welfare checks, bags of coal and health information. She was close to mayors and politicians throughout her time here—many of which were notably corrupt… even by Hoboken standards.
Dolly also became a midwife, and performed abortions, which were of course illegal at the time. She did this free of charge and saved many reputations, as unplanned pregnancy was considered a disgrace in that era.
Using her mother’s money, she and Marty set up Marty O’Brien’s, the Sinatra’s tavern, on 4th & Jefferson. Holding court at the tavern, everyone in town would stop by to say, “Hello Dolly!”
Here’s Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie Orchestra: