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Dave Brubeck’s Widow Iola Dies at 90

Cancer takes the late pianist’s most avid supporter

Dave and Iola Brubeck
Dave and Iola Brubeck visited their alma mater University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., for commencement in 2006. Mrs. Brubeck passed away on March 12, 2014.

Iola Brubeck, who was married to the late pianist and composer Dave Brubeck for 70 years and served as tireless promoter and sometimes-collaborator for her husband, died March 12 at her Connecticut home after a battle with cancer. She was 90.

Born Iola Whitlock Aug. 14, 1923 in Corning, Calif., the future Mrs. Brubeck met the young musician while both attended the College of the Pacific (later University of the Pacific) in Stockton, Calif. After they married in 1942, Iola became Dave’s business manager and also wrote lyrics for some of his compositions, including a jazz opera, sacred choral compositions and nearly three dozen songs.

Iola was also instrumental in getting Dave’s career off the ground by arranging for him to perform at colleges in California when he was still largely unknown. She went on to manage the Dave Brubeck Quartet. She also developed a jazz education course at UC Berkeley in 1950 and co-taught it with Dave.

Dave Brubeck died Dec. 5, 2012, at age 92. They are survived by four sons (another, Michael, died in 2009), a daughter, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

JazzTimes visited Dave and Iola Brubeck at their home in 2008. Read the story here.

Originally Published