She regularly turned to Mayo Clinic doctors, as well as lawyers, social workers, psychiatrists and clergymen, for advice and also referred letter writers to community agencies that could help.
Only a fraction of reader letters ever saw print. Phillips answered many personally, sometimes by telephone if she felt a writer was in crisis. When a desperate-sounding woman said her doctor wouldn't see her for two weeks, the columnist called the doctor and made an appointment that day.
As Mrs. Morton Phillips, she was a socialite who counted among her friends Cary Grant, June Allyson, Neil Simon and Marsha Mason, Rhonda Fleming and Henry Winkler. On the wall of her home hung photographs of the columnist with the famous — Pope Paul VI, Harry Truman, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
A petite woman who favored shoes with spike heels, Phillips exhibited personal flair. She had long sported a bouffant flip hairstyle and had a vast, and rather flamboyant, wardrobe. She once owned two monkeys and kept a collection of monkey-related collectibles.
Phillips supported cancer research and gave generously of her time to such organizations as Goodwill Industries, the Crippled Children's Society and the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
As a philanthropist, she supported Planned Parenthood, San Francisco-based Project Open Hand, Los Angeles-based Project Angel Food, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.
Dear Abby: "Do you think about dying much?"
"No," she replied. "It's the last thing I want to do."
In addition to her husband and daughter, she is survived by four grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. Her son, Edward Jay Phillips, died in 2011.
Beyette is a former Times staff writer and Nelson is a Times staff writer.
Times staff writer Marisa Gerber contributed to this report.