Frances Evinrude is known as the "Sweetheart of World War II" Her trademark song, "I'm in the Mood for Love," captivated soldiers during the 1940s.
Born Frances Langford she was a Florida native who grew up in Lakeland, FL. In high school her singing ability was well known. Langford's proficiency as an operatic soprano would have earned her a successful career in that field, but a throat operation in her teenage years shattered her aspirations of ever being under the limelight of Broadway Opera.
After the surgery, she developed a new voice. Her voice went from soprano to throaty after the tonsils were removed. Her mother (a concert pianist) helped her develop her singing style.
After attending Florida Southern College, Frances began singing on a Tampa radio station ($5-a-week contract on the Eli Witt Hav-a-Tampa Cigar radio show). Rudy Vallee (singer and band leader) gave Frances her big radio push. He auditioned her while his band was playing in Miami. She sang "I'm Through With Love".
Vallee offered her a guest spot on his radio program. After she established a small following while frequenting the Rudy Valle radio program, Frances began to win more acclaim in the Vaudeville scene.
Her first appearance in Bob Hope's radio show ("The Pepsodent Show") was in 1941.
She developed as singer and comic actress. Frances appeared in 28 films from 1935 to 1954 including four radio programs and three TV shows.
While Langford traveled the world with the USO Bob Hope Shows, she often experienced the hazards of war first hand, taking shelter during bombing raids and dodging aerial attacks. She also survived the crash of the show's airplane in Australia.
In 1944, she wrote the "Purple Heart Diary", a newspaper column about her experiences during the war. Time magazine gave her the name the "Sweetheart of World War II."
Her favorite color was yellow which she wore countless times.
Frances Langford was both fascinated and frightened by her experiences in combat zones, but she has always said that the greatest thing in her life was entertaining the troops.
It was in 1945 that she moved to Jensen Beach, Martin County, purchasing 400 acres.
Back in 1938 (possibly June 1934) she had married Hollywood movie star Jon Hall. Together they donated 20 acres land in Jensen for a park in 1948, named 'Langford-Hall Park'. After her divorce from Hall in 1955, the park was just named 'Langford Park' and remains so into the 21st century.
On October 6, 1955, she married Ralph Evinrude (family made the famous Evinrude outboard motors). Together they opened the Outrigger Resort in Jensen Beach in the mid-1950s.
She was the host of two self-titled variety television programs, "Frances Langford Presents" (1959) and "The Frances Langford Show" (1960).
Fishing was her passion over the decades.
Frances and Ralph Evinrude donated money for years to Martin Memorial Medical Center.
Ralph Evinrude died in 1986. Frances remarried Harold Stuart on Nov. 18, 1994.
Frances never had children of her own. She was a stepmother to Ralph Evinrude's children and grandchildren.
Dozens of colorful peacocks, descending from a pair she bought when she first came to Jensen Beach, called her estate home. The flock caused an uproar in Rio in 2001 when new residents complained the birds were too noisy. But the rest of the community embraced the birds, and peacock crossing signs were added to the streets there earlier this year.
It was her local legacy -- from bringing peacocks to the Rio area to donating millions to dozens of charities -- that made her a beloved member of the community.
Docked at the "Outrigger" was her 110-foot yacht, the Chanticleer.
She always did philanthropic work, remembering her simple, central Florida roots.
Frances was inducted into the State Women's Hall of Fame in November 2002.
On July 11, 2005, Frances died at home of congestive heart failure at the age of 92. Her ashes were scattered out in the Atlantic Ocean.
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