01/16/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
AS MAUREEN TIGRETT LAY DYING, her far-flung family gathered at her side. There were three of her four children, her 82-year-old mother, Florence Cox, and, of course, the husbands: Isaac Tigrett, 46, founder of the Hard Rock Cafe restaurant chain, and the ex who'd made hers a glittering name in the 1960s, Ringo Starr.
As they stood vigil on Dec. 30, Maureen, 47, died quietly—of complications from a bone-marrow transplant she had received 63 days earlier at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where she had been treated for leukemia since last October. "They did everything they could," says a family friend, "but it became obvious she was not going to make it."
Tigrett's medical problems began last April, when she collapsed the day her husband opened the L.A. branch of a new restaurant chain, House of Blues. Doctors thought at first she was anemic, but two weeks later they diagnosed leukemia—specifically, a variety known as mylodysplasia—and she moved eventually to the Hutchinson Center, one of the country's leading bone-marrow transplant facilities. There her eldest son, Zak, 29, whose blood type closely matched hers, did all he could, donating first bone marrow, then blood platelets and, finally, white blood cells. But a deadly fungal infection proved too powerful to overcome.
Born Mary Cox in Liverpool, Maureen met drummer Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, in 1962, when she was a 15-year-old apprentice hairdresser. Their 1965 marriage, which produced three children—Zak, now a drummer, Jason, 27, and a daughter, Lee, 24—lasted 10 years, encompassing the raucous era of Beatlemania, the messy Beatles breakup and his alleged affair with an American model.
"We've shared life's ups and downs," says Cynthia Lennon, first wife of John and mother of Julian. "With the Beatles, and without. I was staying with her when John was killed. But Maureen did not live in the shadow of the Beatles."
Not long after her divorce, she started a new life with Tigrett, with whom she had a fourth child, Augusta, now 8. "Maureen was a loving individual," says Dan Aykroyd, one of Augusta's godfathers. "She will be missed."