LOS ANGELES, Calif. | Actor and dancer Dante DiPaolo, 87, died Tuesday, following a short illness, family members said on Wednesday.
DiPaolo was the widower of singer/actress Rosemary Clooney.
The two met during the filming of the movie "Here Come the Girls."
"It was love at first sight," he said in a 2010 interview with The Ledger Independent.
They were romantically linked until he left the filming of "White Christmas" for his roll as Matt in the movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers."
The mention of her name would bring a twinkle to DiPaolo's eye.
They met again years later to rekindle their relationship following a chance encounter on a California highway.
Clooney was driving her Corvette, DiPaolo said.
He was driving his white 1956 Ford Thunderbird and, for lack of paper, he wrote her number in the dust on the dashboard, he said.
They were married Nov. 7, 1997, in Maysville.
Clooney, Rosella, as he called her, died in 2002.
DiPaolo, an internationally known dancer and actor continued to visited Augusta, where he and Clooney had lived as a retreat from California.
"I love everyone in that whole area; they are so welcoming and have always treated me so nicely," DiPaolo said in 2010. "I have been to my boyhood home town in Colorado and there is nobody left I know. I am the oldest of my clan and the others are all gone."
Beginning dancing at 6 years old, DiPaolo's career spanned generations, including a stint in 1945 as a chorus boy in the Ziegfeld Follies, and acting roles in movies and television.
At age 18 he entered the U.S. Army as an infantryman and was just an hour away from being sent to the front lines of World War II in the Philippines when General Douglas MacArthur took control of Manila, DiPaolo said.
"They said he needed clerks who could type 40 words a minute," he said.
After taking the test, DiPaolo said he was relieved to learn his high school typing classes had paid off and he had passed the test with exactly 40 words per minute.
"One mistake and the rest could have been completely different," he said.
Following the war he returned to his career as a dancer.
According to DiPaolo, he had no children of his own, but had an extended family through his brother Richard and Clooney's family.
He had remained friends with his ex-wife, Nadia, as well, family members said.
Nina Clooney, Rosemary Clooney's sister-in-law, said on Wednesday, DiPaiolo had been in a hospital for about a month, recovering from a fall.
“We had been out to see him last week,” Clooney said. “He was very bright in his conversation. He was in bed, but seemed content to be there. His mood was very up.”
Family members were optimistic he was recovering.
“It just floored me when I heard the news. I never dreamed he would die,” said Ben Breslin, who considered DiPaolo a favorite relative through his cousin Rosemary Clooney.
“Theirs was a cool love story. He was a wonderful member of our family, a treasure we will all dearly miss, forever,” Breslin said. “I was honored to be a part of their wedding.”
He recalled DiPaolo as a talented man who was devoted to the people in his life; a doting son to his late mother, adoring husband to Clooney, a gentleman in his ever present straw fedora style hat to adoring fans, and a tornado in the kitchen.
“He loved to cook, but what a mess he could make in there,” Breslin said with a laugh. “He was someone who loved life and lived it to the fullest.”
Yesterday DiPaolo was moved to a hospice facility where his condition rapidly declined, Clooney said.
“They said, he stopped talking and just passed away,” she said.
Information on funeral services was not available Wednesday.