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Jeff Zaslow, Columnist, Best-Selling Author, Dies in Michigan Car Crash

February 16, 2012 By:
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Jeffrey Zaslow, 53, a native of Broomall who was an award-winning columnist and an author whose collaborations with popular cultural icons usually wound up on the nonfiction best-seller lists, died in a car crash on Feb. 10 in Michigan, his home base for many years.

A popular reporter and columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Zaslow had a knack for getting inside the heads of his interview subjects. He worked at the Journal for a number of years in the 1980s before becoming the "new Ann Landers," replacing the popular advice columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times with "All That Zazz" after winning a national contest.

A Marple Newtown High School graduate, Zaslow authored The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University -- Zaslow's alma mater -- whose class lecture during his fatal bout with pancreatic cancer gave the book its title. The book headed the bestseller list of The New York Times for months.

Also making the best-seller list: Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, described as a love story between former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head at a public function last year, and her husband, astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly.

Zaslow was a proud Philadelphia area resident who spent a college summer interning at the Jewish Exponent, where he wrote features.

He often wondered about making a living in journalism when spending that summer at the paper. "After all, the most I made was $5 a week," he said with a hint of his roguish sense of humor at an appearance made during a return to Philadelphia in the mid-'80s.

Making a living never seemed to be a problem for the writer, however, twice dubbed best columnist by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Zaslow also was given the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award in 2000.

Zaslow had a love of baseball and the Phillies that reached the 700 deck of old Veterans Stadium, where he spent another college summer as a vendor, selling hot dogs.

In a conversation with Zaslow just before The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters came out last month, Zaslow marveled at the fickleness of life, but knew, he said, there was always a constant: "That's the love I share with my wife and my daughters."

Zaslow is survived by his wife, Sherry Margolis; and three daughters, Jordan, Alex, and Eden, for whom he wrote The Magic Room.

 

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