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November 12, 1957


Appeal, No. 290, Oct. T., 1957, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Sept. T., 1953, No. 196, in case of John Mark Longaker v. Helena Dasu Longaker. Decree affirmed.


Samuel H. High, Jr., for appellant.

Francis T. Anderson, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Watkins, JJ.

Author: Ervin

[ 184 Pa. Super. Page 652]


John Mark Longaker instituted this divorce action against his wife, Helena Dasu Longaker, alleging cruel and barbarous treatment and indignities to the person. The master recommended that the complaint be dismissed. The court below entered a decree of divorce a.v.m. on the ground of indignities. The wife appealed. After considering the evidence de novo and passing upon its weight and upon the credibility of witnesses, we have reached the independent conclusion that the decree of the court below must be affirmed on the merits.

[ 184 Pa. Super. Page 653]

Plaintiff, John Mark Longaker, is a native born American, a full professor of English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Defendant, Helena Dasu Longaker, was born in Germany of White Russian ancestry. At the time of the hearing in 1954 he was 53 years of age and she was 60 years of age. The parties were married in Rome, Italy, on August 6, 1927. No children were born of this marriage but she had a son by a prior marriage. The parties lived in Philadelphia until 1939 and then moved to a house at 201 Rhyl Lane, Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, which was purchased by plaintiff and his father. The property was conveyed to the parties as tenants by the entireties on July 6, 1945. It was sold in 1954, after the institution of this action, and the proceeds were divided equally between plaintiff and defendant, her share being approximately $9,000.00 in cash. The parties got along fairly well until about 1945, although on Thanksgiving Day evening, 1930, she struck plaintiff on the head with a mirror. From 1945 on the parties have had considerable trouble, which has become increasingly worse until the final break on October 10, 1953, when plaintiff moved to the Normandie Hotel, in Philadelphia. Plaintiff substantiated a considerable portion of his testimony by a police officer and by their neighbors, Leopold Mamolen, Esq., Dr. William A. Shannon and James F. Warren. Defendant produced no witnesses at all to corroborate her testimony, notwithstanding her own son, by a former marriage, a grown man now, lived with the parties for a number of years. He was present at some of the hearings but he did not testify for his mother. The main difficulty arose because of her quick temper and her growing addiction to alcohol. She became bored because her husband, on account of his duties at the University, could not take her out enough. She admitted, however, that he provided the funds, from his moderate

[ 184 Pa. Super. Page 654]

    salary as a University professor, to send her to the mountains of Mexico for four months in the summer and to Florida for the winter for the last eight years before the separation. During the spring and fall, when she was home, she admitted that she started to drink because he did not take her out to have some distraction. She said: "... he works so hard at the University. But he can't expect me to hibernate all winter, I mean, between trips. So that is the reason I drank." She admitted placing herself in St. Luke's Hospital a half dozen times, when there was nothing wrong with her, to escape boredom, even though this extra expense placed a heavy financial burden on him. She purposely did this to hurt him and when she did not get her way, she would say: "... get out your check book, I go back to St. Luke's Hospital."

Defendant admitted clawing him with her fingernails innumerable times, knowing it would embarrass him because he had to appear before groups of people and students; handing him a razor blade and saying "Go ahead"; throwing pictures (or anything she could grab) at him; hitting him over the head with a flashlight in the spring of 1951 in Florida, which put him in the hospital for five days (and this was done when she had not had a drop to drink); throwing bric-a-brac through the windows of their home; that policemen brought her home and on one occasion in 1945 in Cuernavaco, Mexico, being locked up all night in the police station because she had too much to drink; going to Mr. Mamolen's home at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. and borrowing or stealing whiskey or wine; taking a bottle of whiskey from the Liversidge home; going into the homes ...

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