Jeanne Martin, the second wife of legendary crooner Dean Martin, and in her early life a model and Orange Bowl queen, died on Wednesday, August 24 at her home in Beverly Hills following a battle with cancer. She was 89.
Born in 1927 in Coral Gables, Fla., she broke into modeling in Miami, posing for magazines, catalogs and calendars and at age 20 was voted Orange Bowl queen, appearing in its New Year’s Eve parade and at the Jan. 1, 1948 Georgia Tech vs. Kansas football game. She met Dean Martin one year later at a New Year’s Eve performance by Martin and his comedy partner Jerry Lewis, and the two were married in 1949 one week after he divorced his first wife.
Their 1949-1972 marriage coincided with the height of Dean Martin’s fame in the 1950s and 60s, and Jeanne was frequently mentioned in his act. She never pursued an entertainment career of her own, but did co-found the charity organization SHARE (Share Happily and Reap Endlessly) in 1953. The couple had three children together, Dean Paul, daughter Gina Martin, and son Ricci, who died this year on August 1. Jeanne Martin also raised Dean’s children from his first marriage.
In his 2005 memoir, “Dean & Me,” Jerry Lewis described Jeanne as “the best thing (next to me) that ever happened to Dean.”
The couple separated in 1969 and divorced in 1973. Despite the split, the pair eventually became friends, bonding after the 1987 death of their son Dean Paul Martin. They remained on good terms until Martin’s death in 1995. She never remarried. She’s survived by Craig Martin, Gail Martin Downey, Deana Martin Griffeth, Gina Martin Romano, and by 11 grandchildren. Funeral services will be private.