Elizabeth ‘Dolly’ Funk, 104, vaudeville singer
Elizabeth “Dolly” Funk, 104, a former vaudeville singer, died Wednesday, Dec. 29, at Wesley Enhanced Living at Pilgrim Gardens in Northeast Philadelphia. Mrs. Funk’s father, Benjamin Pangborn, was a drummer, and her mother, Elizabeth, was a French horn player. After her father died in 1914, her mother married Al Delmont, who played a variety of instruments.
While her mother and Delmont toured in musical comedy acts, Mrs. Funk and her brother, Harry, spent their childhood split among their grandmother’s home in England and family homes in Philadelphia and New York City. At 17, she was singing solo and in vaudeville acts with her extended family. At 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds, she was billed as “The Little Girl with the Big Mouth.” She insisted she couldn’t sing that well but could sing loud, a valuable trait in the era before amplification, a longtime friend, Harry Adamson, said. Mrs. Funk worked playbills with many well-known vaudevillians, including Bob Hope, Buster Keaton, Milton Berle, and Eddie Cantor. In the 1930s, she was appearing at Ford’s Theatre in Washington when a car arrived to take her to the White House to sing “Happy Birthday to You” to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The entertainer who was supposed to perform for the president’s party had been detained.
Mrs. Funk began a nightclub career in 1939, singing in East Coast clubs, including the Cadillac Cafe and the Walton Hotel’s Rooftop Club in Philadelphia and the Club Madrid in Atlantic City. She told Adamson: “I pawned many a ring or bracelet to get a new gown to sing in, and I always had a pale pink spotlight.” In the 1940s, Mrs. Funk purchased a home in North Philadelphia. After retiring from show business, she worked in the jewelry department at John Wanamaker for 10 years until 1983. She was widowed three times. Her first husband was a singer, Gleason Goree. He died in 1931. Their daughter, Elizabeth, died at 3. Her second husband, Jack Feldman, was a violinist. He died in 1945, and several years later she married Raymond Funk, also a violinist. After he died in 1962, Mrs. Funk stayed in their house in North Philadelphia, where she cared for her mother, a brother, and a friend, Lesley Kelley, until their deaths. She moved to Pilgrim Gardens in 1995.
Almost to the end, “Dolly was a great storyteller and a dearly engaging woman,” Adamson said. Mrs. Funk had no immediate survivors. A graveside service will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, at Chelten Hills Cemetery, 1701 E. Washington Lane.