Ann Landers advice column ending with death of longtime writer

Monday, June 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Esther Lederer, who won a contest to become the second Ann Landers after the column's creator died, didn't want the column to continue after her own death, her daughter said.

After nearly 50 years of being written by Lederer, who died Saturday at the age of 83, the venerable Ann Landers advice column will cease to exist.

Lederer died of multiple myeloma less than two weeks before her July 4 birthday. Her daughter Margo Howard said the Ann Landers column will be ending because that is what her mother wanted.

``She owned the copyright and she did not wish for the name to continue,'' Howard told The Associated Press. ``She felt it was very much associated with her.''

The columns Lederer completed before her death will run through July 27, Richard S. Newcombe, president of Creators Syndicate, distributor of the column, said Sunday.

Howard said her mother's longtime editors will write a new column called Ann's Mailbox in Lederer's style.

``Combining the generational difference and their breadth of experience working with my mother, Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar will meld the Ann Landers approach with a new-century, modern spin,'' Howard said in a statement. ``They are the perfect pair to continue the tradition of a sound, sparkling, tell-it-like-it-is advice.''

A farewell column written by Howard will be distributed Monday, Creators said.

In 1955, Lederer beat out 30 other candidates the Chicago Sun-Times was considering to replace Ruth Crowley, the first writer of the Ann Landers column. She switched syndication companies in 1987 and the column moved to the Chicago Tribune.

Howard, of Cambridge, Mass., said her mother's columns resonated with readers because she wrote about topics that others shied away from while dispensing advice that was never stale.

``She was very brave about what she chose to get behind and she went public about some issues that other people wouldn't have,'' Howard said. ``She was able to change with the times. There was nothing dated about her opinions.''

Lederer, who was known as Eppie, tackled issues such as homosexuality, abortion and AIDS in the column.

``She was the gold standard for advice columnists because she took it seriously,'' Howard said. ``She made it her business to be very serious.''

Lederer's twin sister, Pauline Esther ``PoPo'' Phillips, also known as Abigail Van Buren, followed her into the profession as writer of the Dear Abby column.

Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert remembered Lederer on Sunday as a personable friend who gave him much-needed advice when the two worked in the same newsroom.

``I remember when I went to work at the Sun-Times in 1966, she was still in the city room, at a desk like all the other desks, with an assistant next to her,'' Ebert said. ``She had other staff in an office elsewhere in the building, but she personally wanted to be right there in the middle of the action.''