Norma Jean Speranza was born on Sept. 30, 1935, the youngest of 5 youngsters. Her father, Bernard Speranza, labored in a coal mine in Kiski Township, Pa.; when Norma Jean turned Jill, she purchased it for him, renamed the Corey Mine. Her mom, Clara (Grant) Speranza, died when she was 4.
Her first performances, in school novice hours, weren’t memorable: usually, enthusiastic Carmen Miranda imitations for which she earned final place. At 13, nonetheless, she received a expertise contest sponsored by the Lion’s Club, the prize for which was a spot singing on native radio. The subsequent yr, she was employed by an area orchestra to sing requirements, $5 an evening, 7 days every week. For the demo she despatched Mr. Miller, she sang a Tony Bennett track, “Since My Love Has Gone.”
She sang typically at residence, stated Ms. Hoak, her solely quick survivor. Ms. Corey would sing her daughter to sleep — Judy Garland and Billie Holiday, principally, and to such an extent that her daughter complained, “Don’t you know any happy songs?”
Ms. Corey’s voice remained distinctive, and he or she stored her aptitude. A couple of years in the past, she fell in her residence and referred to as 911. When the fireplace division emergency staff arrived, she acquired them with typical aplomb, a Scotch in a single hand and a cigarette within the different.
The firefighters balked on the cigarette.
As Ms. Hoak recalled: “Mom told them, ‘Oh come on! You boys know how to put out a fire, don’t you?’ ”