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Subject: W. Thacher Longstreth, 82, Philadelphia Councilman

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Date Posted: April 12, 2003 2:12:58 EDT

Longstreth in 1985

W. Thacher Longstreth, longtime Philadelphia councilman whose image as a wisecracking, bow-tied blue blood changed in his later years as his health failed and a court battle pitted his family against his fiancée, died today in Florida. He was 82.

The cause was a pulmonary embolism, said Holly Maher, his aide.

A Republican of aristocratic bearing in a largely blue-collar Democratic city who twice ran for mayor, Mr. Longstreth was first elected to the City Council in 1969 and forged alliances with Democratic governors and mayors. He stepped down in 1971 to run for mayor and was re-elected in 1983.

"I've taken risks and enjoyed experiences that `successful people' would never try, for fear of failure," he wrote in his 1990 memoir, "Main Line WASP." "But if your definition of success is having fun, my life has indeed been a smashing success."

In 2001, Mr. Longstreth, who had Parkinson's disease and suffered bouts of dementia, filed for divorce from his wife, Nancy, who has multiple sclerosis, and became engaged to Melanie Hopkins, his chief of staff since 1996.

Ms. Hopkins fought with Mr. Longstreth's four children, from whom he had been estranged since filing for divorce, for custody of Mr. Longstreth after he fell ill and was hospitalized in Florida. A judge declared him a temporary ward of the state, and this month, Mr. Longstreth's sons were awarded custody.

William Thacher Longstreth was born in Haverford, Pa., in 1920. The stock market crash nine years later wiped out the family fortune. A 6-foot-6 all-American football player at Princeton, Mr. Longstreth married in 1941. He served in the Navy in the Pacific from 1942 to 1946, receiving two Bronze Stars.

After the war, Mr. Longstreth sold advertising for Life magazine before becoming president of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in 1964.

Mr. Longstreth had planned to run for a seventh term on the City Council but decided against it in January after Republican leaders indicated they would not endorse him.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Longstreth is survived by his sons, Peter S., chairman of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, and William T. Jr., of Seattle; and his daughters, Anne Longstreth Delay of Omaha and Ellen Goodwin of Philadelphia.

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