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Jeffrey Zaslow, Author with CMU Ties, Dies in Auto Accident

The 53-year-old Wall Street Journal columnist and best-selling co-author of "The Last Lecture" is killed Friday in northern Michigan.

Best-selling author Jeffrey Zaslow, 53, who co-wrote The Last Lecture with Carnegie Mellon University's Randy Pausch, died Friday in an auto accident in northern Michigan.

According to the Antrim County Sheriff's Office, a vehicle lost control on the M-32 road 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.

"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 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.

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.

Funeral services are pending at Ira Kaufman Chapel, 18325 W. Nine Mile Rd. in Southfield.

This story originally appeared in West Bloomfield Patch.

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