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In Memoriam

Dear Abby, ‘always compassionate toward gay people,’ dies at 94

Thursday, January 17, 2013
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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 around the world 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.

In this Feb. 14, 2001 file photo, "Dear Abby" advice columnist Pauline Friedman Phillips, 82, known to millions of readers as Abigail van Buren, signs autographs for some of dozens of fans after the dedication of a "Dear Abby" star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Phillips, who had Alzheimer’s disease, died Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, she was 94. Phillips' column competed for decades with the advice column of Ann Landers, written by her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer. Their relationship was stormy in their early adult years, but later they regained the close relationship 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 one-liners. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

“Dear Abby” advice columnist Pauline Friedman Phillips in a Feb. 2001 photo.
Photo by Reed Saxon, Associated Press

Phillips willingly expressed views that she realized would bring protests.

In a 1998 interview she remarked: “Whenever I say a kind word about gays, I hear from people, and some of them are damn mad. People throw Leviticus, Deuteronomy and other parts of the Bible to me. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been compassionate toward gay people.”

Indeed, Phillips once responded to a reader who complained that a gay couple was moving in across the street and wanted to know what he could do to improve the quality of the neighborhood.”

“You could move,” was her simple, to the point response.

In another “Dear Abby” column, Phillips once wrote, “Sexual orientation is not a measure of anyone’s humanity or worth. Thank you for pointing out how important it is that people respect each other for who they are, not for what we would like them to be.”

“There wasn’t a subject my mother wouldn’t take on.” said her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now writes the famous syndicated column.

Aside from the Dear Abby column, which appeared in 1,000 newspapers as far off as Brazil and Thailand, Phillips conducted a radio version of “Dear Abby” from 1963 to 1975 and wrote best-selling books about her life and advice.

“My mother leaves very big high heels to fill with a legacy of compassion, commitment and positive social change,” said Jeanne Phillips, in a statement.

Private funeral services were held Thursday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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