Feels like home

By on July 9, 2014

Hollywood family has roots in Lititz

Randy and Dee Miller hosted Carol, Mary and Bob Hendrix during their visit from California. (photo by Laurie Knowles Callanan)

Randy and Dee Miller hosted Carol, Mary and Bob Hendrix during their visit from California. (photo by Laurie Knowles Callanan)

For all of her life, Mary Longenecker Hendrix heard about Lititz, with its Fourth of July festivities, Lititz Springs Park, pretzels, chocolate and Moravian Church.

The youngest daughter of Charles Robert “Bob” Longenecker, radio executive and talent agent, and actress Ruth Hussey, Hendrix grew up in Hollywood. Her father spent his childhood in Lititz and talked about it all the time.

“He might have been living in California, but his heart was in Lititz,” says Hendrix.

She and her husband Bob Hendrix visited Lititz for the Fourth of July, along with their daughter Carol. Although Mary and Carol Hendrix had enjoyed at least three other Lititz Fourths over the years, it was a first for Bob Hendrix.

“I’ve heard so much about it, I just had to come and see for myself,” said Bob.

He wasn’t disappointed. Although the Fourth festivities and fireworks were postponed to July 5 due to muddy conditions in the park following Thursday storms, it was worth the wait. The fireworks were choreographed to music from The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd with a patriotic finale that set the skies over Lititz ablaze with color.

“I told him that Lititz has the best fireworks I have ever seen, even better than anything in California,” said Mary. “It’s something my father always talked about.”

While in Lititz, the Hendrix family visited with Randy and Dee Miller on North Board Street, where they got to see the Millers’ collection of local memorabilia. They met the Millers through the late Peggy Jones, who was a good friend of Mary’s aunt Sylvia Longenecker. Many years ago Ruth Hussey visited Lititz with her husband, where she crowned the Queen of the Candles at the Fourth of July.

On this visit, the Hendrix family also paid respects at the Longenecker cemetery, toured the countryside and made plans to experience the Lititz Farmers Market, Mount Gretna’s woodlands and the Amish farmland near Intercourse.

“I was amazed at how often the Longenecker name showed up,” said Mary, adding that she saw churches, roads and mailboxes with the family name.

Growing up in Brentwood, Calif., she was the only Longenecker in her school, besides her older brothers, Robert and John. When she met a few people in Lititz, one of them told her there were many Longeneckers in this area.

“That’s kind of nice,” Mary said. “I feel like I’m at home where my Dad grew up.”

Ruth Hussey and Bob Longenecker's family photo from the Hollywood days. Mary is up front.

Ruth Hussey and Bob Longenecker’s family photo from the Hollywood days. Mary is up front.

Bob Longenecker died in 2002, after celebrating 60 years of marriage to the beautiful movie actress Ruth Hussey. She died in 2005, making her mark in Hollywood as a smart, witty brunette in films like “The Philadelphia Story,” “The Women” and “The Northwest Passage.” Her role as a fashion photographer covering the wedding of Katharine Hepburn with reporter Jimmy Stewart garnered Hussey an Academy Award nomination.

Mary’s favorite role played by her mother was in the horror classic “The Uninvited,” a 1944 nail-biter that also starred Ray Milland.

However, it was the movie “Flight Command” in 1940 that proved to be most pivotal in Hussey’s personal life. In “Flight Command,” Hussey charmed movie idol Robert Taylor who portrayed a military cadet.

In the audience at the movie theater was the Lititz-born talent agent Bob Longenecker. He was spellbound by the elegant actress, and he told his friends that he was going to marry that leading lady. Two years later, he and Hussey met through mutual friends at the famous Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.

“They ended up talking for hours,” said Mary. “It was a true romance. They dated for just seven weeks and were married for 60 years.”

Mary added that her parents had a very special marriage that was quite unlike most in Hollywood. Ruth focused on her family as she stepped back from her movie career, pursuing roles on Broadway and in television. She was also an artist and designed the family’s vacation home on Lake Arrowhead, a 12-sided, three-story cabin.

“My father always loved Lititz and I wanted to share it with my family. This is our roots,” she said.

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One Comment

  1. Iris

    June 21, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Just happened to watch an old Alfred Hitchcock show, late one night. Well, there was that name, Ruth Hussy and I know I have seen that name before. After googling, I remember so well, the movie, The Uninvited & of course, The Philedelphia Story. That is my favorite thing to do. See, who is who, who they married, kids they had. This was superb. Glad to know, one very good actress who did not die of some tragic reason. Lived a long life, leaving us all with movies to enjoy…

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