- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) Ann Landers, the columnist whose snappy, plainspoken and timely advice helped millions of readers deal with everything from birth to death, died yesterday. She was 83 years old.
The death of Mrs. Landers, whose real name was Esther Lederer, was announced by the Chicago Tribune, publisher of her column. She died less than two weeks before her July 4 birthday.
The cause of her death was not immediately known.
Her column first appeared in print Oct. 16, 1955, in the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1993, she was the world's most widely syndicated columnist, appearing in more than 1,200 newspapers worldwide with 90 million readers daily. Her twin sister, Pauline, followed her into the profession as writer of the Dear Abby column, which appears in The Washington Times.
The feisty, outspoken Mrs. Landers was a housewife when she won the Sun-Times contest to become the second Ann Landers after the woman who created the column died.
At the end of her career, she was a with-it great-grandmother whose name often appeared on lists of the country's most influential women.
"Eppie Lederer was a great columnist and a wonderful person," said John W. Madigan, chairman and CEO of Tribune Co. "She helped people with her advice and made important contributions to society through the causes she supported."
Psychology Today once gave her credit for likely having more influence on the way people work out their problems than any other person of her era. "All the column means to me is an opportunity to do good in the world," she said in a 1993 interview with the magazine.
She attributed her skill to sheer instinct. "I relate to these people like they are almost sitting in the same room. I feel their pain," she once said.
Her advice was always blunt, often sympathetic and sometimes sarcastic, but her answers, even to some of the silliest questions, were heartfelt.
When she began her column, newspaper editors forbade her from talking about homosexuality. In later years, there were virtually no taboos: In an Oct. 24, 1993, column, for example, she endorsed fondling or mutual fondling as a safe, realistic alternative to abstinence for everyone from teens to the elderly.
In a letter published June 16, 1993, a man wrote of being sexually aroused by his girlfriend's young daughters. In a typically pithy response, Mrs. Landers wrote: "The klinker in your thinker has a pedophile-like twist that could cause real trouble at any time. Please get counseling at once."
She was a great believer in counseling and wasn't too big-headed to seek advice from experts when a reader's problem proved too complicated.
Her column had lighthearted moments, though. Few topics excited readers more than the question of which direction the toilet paper should be hung in.
She made headlines and inspired countless water cooler debates in 1985 when she asked women readers whether they prefer tenderness and cuddling or sexual intercourse. Some 90,000 readers sent in responses, and 72 percent voted for cuddling, she reported.
She was based at the Sun-Times until March 1987, when she switched syndication companies and moved to the Chicago Tribune.
The daughter of Russian immigrants, she was born Esther "Eppie" Friedman on July 4, 1918, in Sioux City, Iowa, 17 minutes before her twin sister. When Pauline became Dear Abby, her older sister was so angry they reportedly feuded several years before reconciling.
Mrs. Landers married Jules Lederer in 1939.
They divorced in 1975, a decision Mrs. Landers announced in "the most difficult column I have ever tried to put together."

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