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By Peter W. Zubaty
Landmark News Service
About 15 years ago, a woman approached local writer Paul Jordan at the VFW hall in Lebanon about an interesting story.
She knew of Jordan’s history as a journalist - he had a distinguished career with the Associated Press before going into public service - and laid out the horrifying true details of her family life that eventually became “Descent to Sudden Death,” Jordan’s sixth book, which he signs 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Bardstown Booksellers.
The story recounts the harrowing tale of Dorothy Labine, a Lebanon native who met her husband, Don, in Louisville in the 1950s, beginning a saga of decades of spousal abuse and how the matriarch sought solace in the Catholic and other faiths in a desperate effort to hold her family together and make sense of the hardships in her life.
Louisville is the setting for a significant portion of the book, as is Wisconsin.
Jordan said it was difficult maintaining objectivity while writing the book.
“I didn’t want to make her look like an angel and him like a devil, because I didn’t know the man,” Jordan said of Don Labine’s violent and abusive ways toward his family. “I’m sure it was very cathartic for her, but to me it was not a happy story. ... I probably gave her the benefit of the doubt.”
Dorothy Labine and her children endured decades of verbal and physical abuse from Don Labine until one day, perhaps consumed by guilt, the patriarch claimed his own life.
Don Labine’s suicide did not solve all of Dorothy’s problems, however, as family difficulties still lingered in the form of Darrell, a rebellious teen at the time, and Donnie Jr., who found himself on the wrong end of a murder investigation. The sons - two of the four Labine children - eventually followed their father’s lead and took their own lives.
The events cover a period from 1978-83, and Jordan extensively researched court cases and other legal documents to supplement interviews with Dorothy Labine and other principal players in the book. Diane Otte Hartman, Dorothy Labine’s only daughter and a former employee at St. Catharine College, was instrumental in helping Jordan get the story in print form. Hartman died before the book could be published, however.
Dorothy Labine lives in Danville.
“She felt compelled to have someone tell the story,” Jordan said.