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A century of Hope passes away

Los Angeles, July 28 (Reuters): Bob Hope, who combined perfect timing with classic, self-mocking one-line gags to become America’s most beloved comedian, died peacefully at age 100 with his family at his side.

Meeting reporters just hours after the announcement of the death on Sunday night at his Los Angeles home, Hope’s daughter Linda said: “You could not have asked for a more peaceful ... death. I can’t tell you how beautiful and serene and peaceful it was. The fact that there was a little audience around, even though it was family, warmed dad’s heart.”

She added that the comedian famed for his one-liners had no last words. “He left us with a smile on his face and no really last words. He gave us each a kiss and that was it.”

President George W. Bush led America in mourning the comedian who had become a national institution through his comedy and his unstinting devotion to troops whom he entertained in every conflict from World War II to the Gulf war.

“Today, America lost a great citizen. We mourn the passing of Bob Hope. Bob Hope made us laugh. He lifted our spirits. Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations.”

Hope is survived by his wife of 69 years, Dolores Hope, two sons, two daughters and four grandchildren. Linda said the burial would be private and that it was the subject of one of her father’s last jokes. “My mother asked him where he wanted to be buried and he said, ‘Surprise me.’”

An American flag on the Hope compound in the suburban community of Toluca Lake was lowered to half staff this morning.

US Army and Marine veteran Robert Hill, wearing a fatigue hat and a T-shirt and jeans, stood on a nearby street corner with a flag and a sign that read: “Thank you Bob Hope for the memories. US Forces.” Thanks for the Memories was Hope’s theme song in a song business career that spawned seven decades.

Hope, who was born in England, was the ultimate comedian, a master of timing who turned the one-liner into an art form and became a national institution.

Virtually running his own joke factory by employing about 100 writers, Hope drew on a collection of hundreds of thousands of jokes that specialised in sexual double entendres, gags about his ski-slope nose and lines that paid homage to his cowardice, lack of humility and willingness to con anyone.

He also pioneered with Bing Crosby one of Hollywood’s most enduring genres — the buddy movie.

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