"Dear Abby" passes away

Jan 17, 2013 at 6:01 p.m. ET

The beloved columnist Abigail Van Buren passed away at the age of 94 on Wednesday. Her "Dear Abby" column was read by millions who followed her words of wisdom.


For decades, readers of their local newspapers would turn immediately to the "Dear Abby" advice column to get the latest tips and suggestions on how to handle a sticky family situation. On Wednesday, the well-loved founder of that column, Pauline Phillips, died at the age of 94.

Phillips endured a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, which challenged her over the last decade.

Her daughter, Jeanne, released a statement about her beloved mother, saying, "I have lost my mother, my mentor, and my best friend. 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."

It was Jeanne who officially took over the column in August 2002 after her mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis had been made public. The mother-daughter duo had written the column together for the prior two years by sharing the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren during that time period.

Phillips and her twin sister Esther, AKA advice columnist Ann Landers, were born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1918. After getting degrees in journalism and psychology at Morningside College, Phillips married her sweetheart Morton Phillips in 1939.

Phillips became an affluent San Francisco housewife who had two children, Edward and Jeanne. She was inspired to start her journalism career at the age of 37 after she decided she could write a better advice column than the one she read in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Writing under the byline of Abigail Van Buren, her first column appeared on Jan. 9, 1956, the day a print superstar was born.

Her column was read daily by millions of people who sought her wisdom and advice from simple things like sibling rivalry to more serious topics like infidelity.

She was known for championing equal rights when it came to gender, race, physical disabilities and mental illness. Phillips was also a huge supporter of the U.S. military with her holiday campaign that sent thousands of goodwill greetings to those serving overseas.

Abigail Van Buren's quips were sharp and her quotes were memorable, like this one from a past column: "If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millionaires."

No matter what, her fans adored her and followed her column throughout her entire run as "Dear Abby."

Phillips is survived by her husband Morton of 73 years, her daughter Jeanne, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Image courtesy of Getty Images