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The original advice columnist who counseled millions of readers through her syndicated “Dear Abby” column has died.
Pauline Phillips, aka Abigail Van Buren, died Wednesday at 94, according to TMZ.
No cause of death was provided, but Phillips had struggled with Alzheimer’s disease since 2002, the year she stopped writing the column. Her daughter Jeanne Phillips took it over and continues to write it.
Phillips founded the “Dear Abby” column in 1956 under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, a pseudonym derived from the Bible (Abigail) and the eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren. The column appeared in more than 1,000 newspapers and had a worldwide readership of 100 million.
Phillips was known for her smartly worded one-liners as she espoused her views on everything from marriage, divorce, working mothers, homosexuality (toward which she was compassionate) and Viagra (she was for it).
The column’s success spawned in six books: Dear Abby, Dear Teenager, Dear Abby on Marriage, The Dear Abby Wedding Planner, Where Were You When President Kennedy was Shot? and The Best of Dear Abby. She also had a radio show, The Dear Abby Show, which aired for more than a decade on the CBS Radio Network.
Phillips also appeared on a number of TV programs over years, playing herself on shows including Mr. Ed and The Steve Allen Plymouth Show, as well as appearing on talk shows including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show and Donahue and game show The Hollywood Squares. Her most recent TV credit was an uncredited appearance on the Oxygen reality show Running Russell Simmons in 2010.
Phillips was born July 4, 1918, in Sioux City, Iowa. She had a twin sister, Esther (“Eppie”), born 17 minutes before her. Esther Friedman Lederer would go on to write the competing syndicated column “Ask Ann Landers” until her death in 2002 from bone cancer.
Just shy of her 21st birthday, Phillips married businessman Morton Phillips and had a son and daughter, Edward Jay and Jeanne.
“I have lost my mother, my mentor and my best friend,” Jeanne Phillips tells TMZ. “My mother leaves very big high heels to fill with a legacy of compassion, commitment and positive social change. I will honor her memory every day by continuing this legacy.”
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