Dolores Ferdinand Marsalis, matriarch of one of New Orleans’ great musical families died Tuesday (July 18) of pancreatic cancer. She was 80 years old. Dolores Marsalis was the wife of the influential New Orleans jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, and mother of six sons: Branford, Wynton , Ellis III, Delfeayo , Mboya Kinyatta, and Jason, four of whom are jazz musicians.
In a telephone conversation Wednesday, Ellis Marsalis said that Dolores was born in New Orleans and attended St. Mary’s Academy High School and Grambling State University, where she studied home economics. Ellis met Dolores at Lincoln Beach in 1956, he said. Both were there to attend a Dinah Washington concert with friends. Later, he asked her out. She lived in the St. Bernard housing development at the time, he said.
“She really liked music,” Ellis said. “I didn’t know many girls who liked jazz at that time.”
It was no wonder, really.