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MN Alum, Author Jeffrey Zaslow Dies in Auto Accident

The 53-year-old former Broomall resident, who was a Wall Street Journal and best-seller writer died in northern Michigan on Friday morning.

WEST BLOOMFIELD, MI– graduate and best-selling author Jeffrey Zaslow, 53, of West Bloomfield, MI, who co-wrote The Last Lecture, died Friday morning in an auto accident in northern Michigan.

According to the Antrim County Sheriff's Office, a vehicle lost control on M-32 and skidded into the path of a truck Friday morning; the car's driver was killed, a dispatcher confirmed.

Zaslow recently published a new novel, The Magic Room, and was a featured speaker last month at the and a frequent speaker at functions throughout West Bloomfield and Farmington, MI.

"He recently spoke at one of our meetings and our members were in awe of his commitment," said Optimist Club President Robert Brooks. "His whole community will miss him dearly. He embodied optimism in all he did. He’s an outstanding individual in his family and his community."

Zaslow, also a Wall Street Journal columnist, was mourned Friday afternoon by colleagues there.

"Zaz was just about the nicest person I have ever worked with," said Michael Ramsey, auto writer for the Journal. "He was brilliant and funny and totally humble.

"He was sweet and deeply in love with his family. He had an eye for the meaningful and there was no one else like him. I am so sad about this news."

John Stoll worked in a cubicle next to Zaslow's from 2005 to 2010 as a staff reporter for the Journal. Stoll said he listened as Randy Pausch would call Zaslow for his thoughts to be transcribed in The Last Lecture. The 2008 release, based on a lecture Pausch gave in September 2007, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, remained a New York Times bestseller for 112 weeks.

Stoll described Zaslow as the living embodiment of clarity and wisdom for himself and "generations" of other Journal reporters.

"Jeff was a mentor for me at a very important time of my career," said Stoll, currently an editor at Reuters. "Generations, probably, of Journal reporters, relied on him for a lot of guidance. He’d come up to you and give you wisdom and clarity when you needed it. About three years ago, I had a rough patch in career and life and he was one of the steadiest people for me."

Zaslow was a Journal reporter from 1983 to 1987 "when his career took a remarkable turn," according to the Wall Street Journal's obit on the author.

"In 1987, Mr. Zaslow wrote a first-person front-page article on a contest to replace Ann Landers, who had just left the Chicago Sun-Times. He won the contest, which drew 12,000 applicants, and took the job for several years, until 2001," the Journal wrote. He later rejoined the paper.

Sharon Carty, managing editor at AOL Autos/Huffington Post, said that she met Zaslow while she was working for Dow Jones, which shared an office in the Wall Street Journal Detroit bureau.

"He once told me never to write a book unless I knew it was going to be a smashing success. I guess if you're as talented as Jeff, that's an easy way to go about writing books," she said. "I am still struggling to find that great idea — and for Jeff, he always seemed to know what ideas were golden. His writing was just as glittering. 

"I am shocked and saddened. I wish his wife and daughters peace during this tough time."

Zaslow also wrote The Girls From Ames, Gabby, and Highest Duty.

"He had worked his tail off this year on two books," Ramsey said, "and I was joking with him to take some time off."

about his latest book, The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters, which was based on a small-town bridal shop in Fowler, between Metro Detroit and Lansing, MI.

Branch manager Mary Killian said that Zaslow enjoyed immense support at his hometown library.

"It's such a tragedy. The West Bloomfield community has lost a treasured author," Killian said. "He spoke at the library just last week to his devoted readers who found inspiration in all of his books, from The Last Lecture to his new book, The Magic Room. His storytelling was such a gift to all of us."

The accident  took place in Antrim County, in northern Michigan. Zaslow had made an appearance at a Petoskey bookstore on Thursday.

Zaslow is survived by wife, WJBK-TV/Channel 2 newscaster Sherry Margolis, and three daughters, Jordan, Alex and Eden. Zaslow's parents, natives of Broomall, now reside in Florida. His mother, Naomi, was the first public relations officer for the .

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danny February 12, 2012 at 04:58 AM
The PR dept at Penguin should be held partly responsible for my friend's premature and illfated and untimely death. What were they thinking, sending a man solo on icy winter roads for a 40 person book signing event? The New York Times is looking into this now. heads will roll over this. I hope his family sues Penguin! Becker Mueller had joined Zaslow at the book signing Thursday night in Petoskey, and they were supposed to have breakfast Friday morning. But Zaslow called her and said "he was nervous about the roads and wanted to leave so he could be home when his daughter got out of school." why was a bestselling author on a cold February morning driving solo to and from a small bookstore in northern Michigan, when he did not have to do such a minor book event for his new book. He could have done an interview on Good Morning America or NPR and any other large media outlet, and he could have had a much different arc in life. It seems so sad and a pity that Jeff had to drive solo in icy conditions from Detroit to Petoskey and back just for a minor minor book signing event. That he bothered to go there says volumnes about his own dedication to his fans and readers, so on level, bravo to Jeff for agreeing to go there to sign a few books. But on the other hand, one has to ask his publishers and PR people: why on Earth was this small book event part of his national book tour? What were people thinking? And why did he go?

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