By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 24, 2002 04:23 PM
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The world is less wise today: Ann Landers has died. Actually, Esther (“Eppie” to all) Lederer died in Chicago, at the age of 83, from a form of bone marrow cancer, reports the Associated Press. She’d been writing the Dear Ann Landers column, first for the Chicago Sun-Times and then for that city’s Tribune (and its syndicate), since 1955 and always said that she would be writing it until the day she died. The pragmatic and liberal advice dispenser had beaten out 30 other candidates to take over the Ann Landers newspaper column when its first author had died. Lederer landed her byline by quoting top experts in their fields — including a Supreme Court justice and the president of Notre Dame, both contacts from her days as a powerful Democratic party booster — when it came to answering the sample questions in the job application. At first the editor thought she was making up the names, reports the AP, but when Lederer proved how well-connected she was (and how much common sense she possessed), the job was hers. In 1993, she was the world’s most widely syndicated columnist, appearing in more than 1,200 newspapers internationally with 90 million readers daily, the AP reports. Her twin sister, Pauline — younger by some 17 minutes — followed her into the advice business as the writer of the Dear Abby column. (A rivalry developed and the two didn’t speak for five years, but then patched things up.) Lederer’s favorite method of reading her mountains of letters was while soaking in a hot tub, the New York Times reported. On Sunday, Lederer’s daughter, Margo Howard, told the AP that, per her mother’s wishes, the Ann Landers column will end. (The final installment, written before her death, will be published July 27.) Howard went on to say that her mother’s longtime editors will write a Lederer-like new column, to be called Ann’s Mailbox.