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Pauline Phillips, 'Dear Abby' writer, dies

MINNEAPOLIS -- Pauline Friedman Phillips, who as Dear Abby dispensed snappy, sometimes saucy advice on love, marriage and meddling mothers-in-law to millions of newspaper readers and opened the way for the likes of Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil and Oprah, has died. She was 94.

Phillips died Wednesday in Minneapolis after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, said Gene Willis, a publicist for the Universal Uclick Syndicate. Private funeral services were held yesterday, he said.

The long-running "Dear Abby" column first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1956. Her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, started sharing the byline in 2000 and took it over in 2002, when the family announced her mother had Alzheimer's.

Pauline Phillips wrote under the name Abigail Van Buren. Her column competed for decades with the advice of Ann Landers, written by her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer, who died in 2002. Their relationship was stormy in their early adult years, but they later regained the closeness they had growing up in Sioux City, Iowa.

The two columns differed in style. Ann Landers responded to questioners with homey, detailed advice. Abby's replies were often flippant and occasionally risqué one-liners, like those collected for her 1981 book "The Best of Dear Abby:"

Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I'd like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he'd like? -- Carol

Dear Carol: Nevermind what he'd like, give him a tie.

In a time before confessional talk shows and the nothing-is-too-private culture of the Internet, the sisters' columns offered a rare window into Americans' private lives and a forum for discussing marriage, sex and the swiftly changing mores of the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

Phillips also conducted a radio version of "Dear Abby" from 1963 to 1975 and wrote best-selling books about her life and advice. She admitted her advice changed over the years.

When she started writing the column, she was reluctant to advocate divorce.

"I always thought that marriage should be forever," she said. "I found out through my readers that sometimes the best thing they can do is part."

Examples of her advice

Examples of the advice that columnist Pauline Phillips gave readers of her Dear Abby column:

"A bad habit never disappears miraculously; it's an undo-it-yourself project."

"If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders."

"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."

"The less you talk, the more you're listened to."

"If you want a place in the sun, you've got to put up with a few blisters."

"Wisdom doesn't automatically come with old age. Nothing does -- except wrinkles."

"There are two kinds of people in the world -- those who walk into a room and say, 'There you are' and those who say, 'Here I am.' "


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