SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

January 19, 2013

Lovelorn-advice ‘twins’ both gone


Alzheimer’s claims original ‘Abby’


Pauline Esther Phillips, who was known to millions of newspaper readers as “Dear Abby” advice columnist Abigail Van Buren, has died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Phillips, who died yesterday at age 94 in Minneapolis, had lived in Minnetonka, Minn.

With identical twin Esther Pauline Lederer, who used the pseudonym Ann Landers until her death in 2002, Phillips ushered the staid advice-to-the-lovelorn column into the modern era.

She, like her sister, responded to letters about social issues such as divorce, teen sex, alcoholism and AIDS — and did so with a mix of candor, common sense and an occasional wisecrack.

FILE PHOTO    The first Dear Abby: Pauline Esther Phillips, right, with daughter Jeanne Phillips in 2001

Created by Phillips in 1956, the Dear Abby column is published in about 1,400 papers worldwide — including The Dispatch.

She wrote the column herself until 1987, when she was joined by her daughter, Jeanne Phillips.

In 2002, as her health deteriorated, she yielded to her daughter — who took over as the new Dear Abby.

According to Richard Weiner, the author of the 1977 book Syndicated Columnists, a theology professor in 1972 asked Phillips how she developed her answers to letters and how long she took to write them.

“I think my answers are just common sense in a capsule,” she said. “And it took me about one hour and 53 years to write today’s column.”

The sisters maintained an intense sibling rivalry.

In 1958, Life magazine reported that Phillips had offered Dear Abby to Iowa’s Sioux City Journal at a reduced price, provided the paper wouldn’t run Ann Landers. After that, the twins didn’t speak to each other for five years. They reconciled in 1964.

“The feud was vastly exaggerated,” Lederer once said.

Pauline Esther Friedman was born on July 4, 1918, in Sioux City, Iowa, 17 minutes after her sister. She was the fourth daughter of Rebecca and Abraham Friedman, who came to the United States in 1908 from Vladivostok, Russia. Her parents called her “Popo” and her sister “Eppie.”

The two petite, black-haired sisters were even married together. On July 2, 1939, Pauline wed businessman Morton Phillips and Esther married Jules Lederer in a double ceremony in Sioux City.

In 1956, Eppie Lederer began her career as Ann Landers at the Chicago Sun-Times. She often phoned her sister for help in coming up with letter replies. Pauline proved so good at it that she wrote to the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle and told them she could write a better column than the one they had.

The pen name Abigail Van Buren came from the Old Testament (“and David said to Abigail, blessed be thy advice”) and the eighth U.S. president because, as Phillips used to say, it sounded aristocratic.

The success of “Dear Abby” led to a CBS radio show, which ran for 12 years, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2003, Edward Phillips and an anonymous donor gave $10 million to the Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, Minn., to conduct medical research on Alzheimer’s disease.

“I believe she made a profound difference in many lives countless times,” Edward Phillips said. “And if that is the acid test of a good life, she passed with flying colors.”

(So now both twins are gone. Over the years, I have very much enjoyed both ladies with special emphasis on their humor.  They both really started something and are to be admired.   This was an  acknowledgement from my local Columbus Dispatch, but one can go online  – there are literally dozens of excellent sources from one coast to another with stories if any are interested in reading more.   Jan)


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