Maria Elena Santiago-Holly attends the Buddy Holly Guitar foundation tribute at PJ Clarke's on April 29, 2011 in New York City.
Maria Elena Santiago-Holly attends the Buddy Holly Guitar foundation tribute at PJ Clarke's on April 29, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images)

Buddy Holly and Maria Elena Holly: How Buddy Holly's Widow Has Honored His Legacy

Music icon Buddy Holly left this earth far too soon at age 22, but, in his short life, he managed to leave a mark on music that has reverberated through genres and generations. Born in Lubbock, Texas in 1936, Holly got his start in the music business in the 1950s as a member of rock and roll band, The Crickets. He then pursued a solo career, releasing two albums, Buddy Holly and That'll Be The Day, and legendary songs such as "Peggy Sue." In 1959, Holly died in a plane crash along with Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and pilot Roger Peterson — a day that was later referred to as "The Day the Music Died" in Don McLean's "American Pie." When he died, Holly not only left behind many fans and admirers, but he also left a beloved wife. Buddy Holly's widow Maria Elena Holly is still alive today, and although their time together was short, they share a love story that won't soon be forgotten.

Buddy Holly met Maria Elena Santiago while visiting Peer-Southern music publishing company in New York City, where Maria worked as a receptionist. Their whirlwind story began when Holly asked Santiago out on a date and she accepted. While on that first date, Holly reportedly gave Santiago a rose and asked for her hand in marriage, and again, she accepted. The two were married on August 15, 1958 at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas. Holly's marriage to Maria was initially kept a secret, and Maria often accompanied Holly on tour under the guise of his secretary. Soon after, The Crickets broke up, and Holly and Maria moved to New York.

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For the next few months, Holly continued working on music with his new wife by his side, and he even produced early tracks for Waylon Jennings. Jennings also joined Holly's band as they took off on the Winter Dance Party tour. In February 1959, Holly's plane went down after a show in Clear Lake, Iowa and Holly and two of his band members were killed. Jennings could have been on the flight, but gave up his seat to J.P. Richardson (the big Bopper). Holly and Maria had only been married for six months when the rock and roll legend passed away.

Maria, who was pregnant at the time, learned of her husband's death from a news report. The tragic news sent her into shock. She miscarried soon after. Maria did not attend her husband's funeral and she has never visited his grave site in his hometown of Lubbock.

After Holly's death, Maria Santiago-Holly went on to have three children with her second husband, whom she eventually divorced. She now lives in Dallas, Texas and works to preserve Buddy Holly's legacy. In 2010, she co-founded the The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation with Peter Bradley. She continues to own the rights to all of Holly's assets, including his name, image, trademarks, and intellectual property.

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