Barbara Sears "Bobo" Rockefeller, 91, a coal miner's daughter and one-time actress whose "Cinderella wedding of the century" to millionaire Winthrop Rockefeller in 1949 soon gave way to bitter divorce proceedings, died May 19 at her home in Little Rock. No cause of death was reported.
Born Jievute Paulekiute, she first attracted notice as Miss Lithuania at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. She later was Eva Paul onstage and Barbara Sears onscreen.
But her international fame -- a Time cover picture, a portrait by Salvador Dali -- was owed to her marriage to Rockefeller, heir to the Standard Oil fortune, a nightclubbing bon vivant and one of America's wealthiest bachelors. Their Florida wedding featured such guests as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The Rockefeller union was promoted as the country's most swoon-worthy tale of romance in years, and seven months later it produced a child, future Arkansas Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller. The elder Rockefeller became a prominent Arkansas philanthropist and served two terms as that state's governor before his death in 1973. Their son died in 2006.
The fairy-tale marriage quickly grew stormy, and the Rockefellers separated in 1950. Mrs. Rockefeller complained publicly that her husband, who maintained a reputation as a ladies' man, "humiliated me before the world."
Mrs. Rockefeller took her son to live in the Indiana farm community where she spent her high school years. In 1953, the two sides began haggling about a divorce settlement, and her husband moved to Arkansas to qualify for its relaxed divorce law.
She declared her intent to fight any "cheap mail-order divorce," adding, "I intend to be a Mrs. Rockefeller until the day I die."
While her husband was still in Arkansas, she showed up unannounced at Rockefeller's 15-room apartment in New York and began living there with their son.
In 1954, Winthrop Rockefeller made what amounted to a record divorce settlement of $2 million in cash and $3.5 million in trust funds for her and their son. Mrs. Rockefeller soon left her ex-husband's apartment and moved into a lavish six-story brownstone on the Upper East Side. She divided her time between New York and Paris, where she also owned a flat. She entertained often but shunned media attention.