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The Lady with All the Answers

Dear Abby:  I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can't afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Have you any suggestions? - M. J. B. in Oakland, Calif.

Dear M. J. B.: Yes. Run for a public office.

Such was the incisive wit of Pauline Friedman Phillips, known to millions as Dear Abby. Affectionately nicknamed "Popo" by friends, Dear Abby was the advice maven of a generation - or rather, generations.

Dear Abby: Are birth control pills deductible?  -- Bertie

Dear Bertie: Only if they don't work.

Admittedly not an expert in the field of psychology, she had a PhD in common sense.

Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? - Wanting to Know

Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.

Dear Abby became part of the American lexicon.  She was referenced in The Brady Bunch, Three's Company, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Dexter.  Most impressively - to me, anyway - she even had a cameo appearance on Mr. Ed.  I mean, when you can clear up the problems of a talking horse, then you're cooking with gas.  And that ain't hay. (Sorry).

Dear Abby: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast - still in the buff. We're newlyweds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there's really nothing wrong with it. What do you think? - Ed

Dear Ed: It's O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she's frying bacon.

Dear Abby had a profound influence on America.  Before the Internet, Dr. Ruth, and Dr. Phil, the column spoke to us about prejudice, love and sex.  Through the years she evolved: when faced with questions about homosexuality, she counseled tolerance; initially anti-divorce, she recognized the need if a couple had no alternative - particularly when it came to spousal abuse.  1,400 newspapers printed her advice.  Here is perhaps my favorite column:

Dear Abby: Two men who claim to be father and adopted son just bought an old mansion across the street and fixed it up. We notice a very suspicious mixture of company coming and going at all hours - blacks, whites, Orientals, women who look like men and men who look like women. This has always been considered one of the finest sections of San Francisco, and these weirdos are giving it a bad name. How can we improve the neighborhood? - Nob Hill Residents  

Dear Nob Hill Residents: You could move.

Whereas Ann Landers gave homey, carefully thought out advice, Dear Abby was known for her pithy witticisms.

Dear Abby: What's the difference between a wife and a mistress? -Bess

Dear Bess: Night and Day.

And so you figure that a mind like that could never be less than razor sharp.

In the 1990s, a woman wrote to Abby questioning why people ignored her and her husband when they discovered he had Alzheimer's, acting as though the disease didn't even exist.

Abby responded: "Although there have been warnings that it was coming for years, the Alzheimer's epidemic is here now, and millions more families will be touched by this progressive - and ultimately fatal - disease." 

Abby wrote her last column in 2000. In 2003, Abby's family, along with an anonymous donor, contributed a total of $10 million to the Mayo Clinic for its Alzheimer's research. The facility was renamed the Abigail Van Buren Alzheimer's Disease Research Clinic.

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: Never mind what he'd like, give him a tie.

In January 2013, Abby ("Popo") died after a ten year battle with Alzheimer's.

There is still no cure.

Photo: Wiki Commons

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