Pauline Phillips a.k.a. 'Dear Abby' leaves legacy of wit and warm advice (+video)
Pauline Phillips, who wrote the Dear Abby advice column, passed on Wednesday. Pauline Phillips wrote as Dear Abby for decades alongside that of Pauline's twin sister, who wrote Dear Ann Landers.
Two men had recently bought a house together in the tiny San Francisco neighborhood of Nob Hill, and the neighbors were annoyed. The men were entertaining "a very suspicious mixture of company," the neighbors wrote into their paper's advice column, asking, "How can we improve the neighborhood?"
"You could move," Dear Abby replied.
That zinger was such classic Abby — real name, Pauline Friedman Phillips — that it moved her daughter to burst into laughter Thursday when reminded of it, even though she had just returned from the funeral of her mother, who died a day earlier at age 94 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
"People weren't really talking about homosexuality back then," Jeanne Phillips, who now writes the famous syndicated column, said. "But you know, there wasn't a subject my mother wouldn't take on."
As the world said goodbye to Dear Abby on Thursday, the Web was full of her snappiest one-liners, responses to thousands of letters over the decades that she wrote in her daily column. But her admirers noted that behind the humor and wit was a huge heart, and a genuine desire to improve people's lives.
"She really wanted to help people," said Judith Martin, the etiquette columnist known as Miss Manners. "Yes, she wrote with humor, but with great sympathy. She had an enormous amount of influence, and for the good. Her place in the culture was really extraordinary."
The long-running "Dear Abby" column first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1956. Phillips was hardly experienced, but she had managed to snag an interview for the job. A skeptical editor allowed her to write a few sample columns, and Phillips was hired.
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