Pauline Phillips

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Dear Abby, you'll be missed.

Pauline Phillips, who wrote under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, has died. Phillips originated the syndicated "Dear Abby" advice column that counseled millions of readers around the world on everything from love and marriage to family matters.

She was 94.

A statement from syndicator Universal Uclick confirmed her passing, saying the newspaper columnist had been battling Alzheimer's disease.

Her daughter Jeanne Phillips, who took over "Dear Abby" after Pauline retired, said in the statement, "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 by continuing this legacy," she said.

Phillips launched her writing career in January 1956 at the age of 37 after pitching to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle that she could pen an advice column better than the one the paper was then running. Given the position, the budding writer selected as her nom de plume Abigail from the Bible and the surname Van Buren after the nation's eighth president, Martin Van Buren.

The column "Dear Abby" debuted on Jan. 9, 1956 and became so influential and successful, it was syndicated throughout the U.S. and around the globe, growing to a daily readership of approximately 110 million in over 1,400 newspapers.

Phillips' tart and often humorous words of wisdom became so indispensable that "Dear Abby" quickly found its way into the pop culture lexicon with references to the column popping up in movies as far-flung as Dog Day Afternoon, The Great Muppet Caper and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to television shows like Mister Ed and Three's Company. The punk band Dead Kennedys and singer-songwriter John Prine namedchecked her work in song while Adam Sandler nodded to Phillips/Abby's Jewish heritage in his classic "The Chanukah Song."

Speaking of heritage, Phillips' identical twin sister, Esther Pauline Friedman, found similar success as a professional advice-giver under the pen name Ann Landers. The siblings would end up being rivals for five decades until the latter's death in 2002.

That same year, Phillips retired after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and turned the column over to her daughter who continues doling out good guidance to this day.

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