Pauline Phillips, aka Abigail van Buren, was better known as “Dear Abby” by her vast news advice column readership. She dispensed friendly but firm advice to thousands of questions on a variety of daily life topics over the years. She also was not afraid to give her opinion on hot-button topics like women’s rights, AIDS and gay rights. But for those of us touched by Alzheimer’s, her early advocacy helped this terrible disease get the public attention it deserves.
The sad and twisted irony is that Ms. Phillips would end up succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease herself. She lived for a decade with the disease, before passing away at age 94 in January 2013.
The Alzheimer’s Association has posted a lovely tribute that explains how her role as Dear Abby helped the public understand more about Alzheimer’s disease. While it can be easy to scoff or be dismissive of the power of pop culture figures and advice gurus, their messages can be powerful.