JOYCE BROTHERS, 85

Brothers became part of the Q-C community

2013-05-14T04:45:00Z 2013-05-23T21:28:46Z Brothers became part of the Q-C communityStaff and wire reports The Quad-City Times

When Drs. Amir and Lisa Arbisser opened an ophthalmology practice in Davenport in 1983, they knew they weren't the most famous doctors in the family.

Lisa's mother, Dr. Joyce Brothers, had become a well-known psychologist whose career spanned 60 years of talk shows, newspaper columns and appearances on a variety of TV series.

She died Monday at age 85 at her home in Fort Lee, N.J.

Brothers made many trips to the Quad-Cities, whether publicized or not.

"This is a place where you can bring your children up without fear, where there are caring, helpful people," she said of the Quad-Cities at a 1987 lecture in Moline. "It's God's country."

Brothers made many public appearances in the Quad-Cities, including benefits for the Davenport Schools Foundation, Better Business Bureau, Quad-City Times Seniorfest, Friendship Manor, Family Resources, Illini Hospital and the former Davenport Museum of Art. As a commencement speaker at the former Marycrest College in Davenport, she received an honorary degree in humane letters.

She also made a point of visiting and speaking in the classrooms of each of her four grandchildren, all in Davenport Public Schools. She also gave each of her grandchildren a dream, once-in-a-lifetime trip to a spot of the child's choosing.

Even without family here, Brothers' visits to the Quad-Cities stretch back at least as far as 1965, on behalf of the Quad-Cities Secretarial Institute.

Through the years, mother and daughter remained close.

"Lisa and I go to each other for advice," Brothers said in 1990, before the Illini Hospital program. "I've grown my own best friend."

The way Brothers liked to tell it, her multimedia career came about "because we were hungry."

In 1955, while her husband, Milton Brothers, was in medical school, Brothers gave up teaching positions at Hunter College and Columbia University to be home with her newborn daughter, firmly believing a child's development depended on it.

But the young family found itself struggling on her husband's residency income. So Brothers came up with the idea of entering a television quiz show as a contestant.

"The $64,000 Question" quizzed contestants in their chosen area of expertise. She memorized 20 volumes of a boxing encyclopedia — and, with that as her subject, became the only woman and the second person to ever win the show's top prize.

Brothers tried her luck again on the superseding "$64,000 Challenge," answering each question correctly and earning the dubious distinction as one of the biggest winners in the history of television quiz shows. She later denied any knowledge of cheating, and during a 1959 hearing in the quiz show scandal, a producer exonerated her of involvement.

Her celebrity opened up doors. In 1956, she became co-host of "Sports Showcast" and frequently appeared on talk shows.

Two years later, NBC offered her a trial on an afternoon television program in which she advised on love, marriage, sex and child-rearing. Its success led to a nationally telecast program, and subsequent late-night shows that addressed such taboo subjects as menopause, frigidity, impotence and sexual enjoyment. 

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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