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Farewell, Erma!

(The Philadelphia Inquirer published Donna Gephart’s letter following the death of Erma Bombeck on April 22, 1996.)

When the disc jockey announced Erma Bombeck’s death today, I dropped the plate I was washing and sunk into a chair. I told my boys, “We lost a friend.”

How am I supposed to get through potty training without her? And the boys’ first day of school, their leaving for college and getting married? How will I survive daily temper tantrums — my husband’s not my sons’?

Erma don’t go! I need you to help me navigate through life.

You’ve inspired me as a writer, mother and human being.

I’ve heard you described as an ordinary housewife turned humor writer. Like all “ordinary” housewives, you were extraordinary. You raised three children, one husband, a dog and still found time to keep us laughing with your columns and books.

Thank you, Erma, for sharing your “ordinary” experiences with us so we didn’t have to go it alone. Thank you for examining life in all its splendor and sorrow, its wonder and woe and creating something touching, memorable and funny.

Thank you for providing a steady stream of sunlight through an often gray, cloudy media. You were the silver lining. You were the rainbow.

And because you were such a good and reliable friend, we invited you into our hearts.  Glad you stayed.

Wherever you are now, Erma, keep ‘em laughing!

— Donna Gephart

Donna Gephart writes humorous, heartfelt middle grade novels for Delacorte/Random House. Her latest, Lily and Dunkin, appeared on NPR’s Best Children’s Books of 2016, Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2016 and others.  She lives in South Florida and on the web at

Reflections of Erma