Dear Abby:

I've long thought about writing to you. Not to ask a question or to seek advice. Mostly I just wanted to thank you for providing decades of engaging reading material.

My friends have often described me as their "Dear Abby," the one person they could call in the middle of the night and talk. Much like you, I've heard confessions, kept secrets, gave company to the grieving and, when requested, offered advice. Very few actually followed my advice, though these same people would frequently contact me months or years later and proffer the well-worn mea culpa: "You were right. I should have listened." However, the gift of guidance was only the smallest service I provided. In truth, much like you, I simply tried to help.

So often when I read your column, I'd attempt to figure out how I would've responded to the querents were I in your shoes. Then I'd read your letter to see how closely our advice aligned. Despite our age difference, we were usually in the same time zone, though there were a few occasions when I wanted to give you 50 lashes with a wet noodle. Thankfully, whenever you realized you'd made a wrong turn and offered ill-advice, you always had the grace to pick up that noodle and flagellate yourself. Admitting you're wrong is never easy; doing so in front of millions of people is quite commendable.

When I learned of your death, I felt a real sense of loss. You were an icon, but a quiet one. You were famous without reveling in celebrity, and you never forgot your mission, which was to help people. Like the best writers, you used your wits and talents and common sense to serve your readers; I have always appreciated and admired that.

Your daughter Jeanne published a lovely tribute in your honor. At one point she described you as having "a deeply caring heart, a lively sense of humor and a deep devotion" to all of your readers. She also wrote that you "tried every day to educate, enlighten and entertain and to inspire civility and respect for others." You succeeded marvelously, my dear, and for that I thank you.

Farewell and rest in peace, Abby.