When their only child and her husband decided to set up an ophthalmology practice in the Quad-Cities, Drs. Milton and Joyce Brothers were ready to make mockery.

"I can't say they didn't make a couple of jokes," Dr. Lisa Brothers Arbisser said of her parents. For example, "that the only live culture would be in the yogurt."

"But they quickly found out that wasn't the experience at all," Arbisser said of the 1983 move she and her husband, Amir, made to Davenport after they graduated from the opthamology program at the University of Iowa.

Brothers, who died Monday night at the age of 85, saw the idyllic life in the Midwest that she couldn't imagine as a born-and-raised New Yorker.

"She always felt it was a good decision for us," Arbisser said. "She could definitely see the need that was here for our skills and the quality-of-life experience."

The Arbissers, 30 years later, have raised their four children here and sent them through Davenport Public Schools.

"My mom was all in favor of that choice," Arbisser said. "Her main problem was (that it took) two planes to get to New York."

Arbisser, in a cellphone interview Tuesday morning en route to her mother's funeral services at Riverside Chapel in New York City, praised her as someone who broke new ground in psychology and pop culture.

"She was a true pioneer and actually invented the whole concept of media psychology," Arbisser said. "There was a fair amount of storminess — 'was it appropriate?' — from the American Psychological Association, which later gave her a presidential citation for her achievement. But for some time it was quite controversial. Her goal was to take the concept of an advice column, but instead give psychologically sound information."

Brothers did that through a long-running newspaper column, which she discontinued earlier this year, and in radio broadcasts, which Brothers ended late in 2012.

"She contributed completely to the fact that we have open conversations and understand each other's problems so much more," Arbisser said. "She took away a lot of the stigma of discussing the intimate nature of relationships and problems that people have."

Arbisser said her mother would have been flattered by all of the requests her daughter received for interviews in the hours after her death. She turned down interviews with CNN and NBC, and particularly balked at an offer from a New York TV station to appear on camera.

"My mom would have, but there's no way," Arbisser said.

Brothers became a celebrity thanks to numerous appearances in movies and TV shows, whether they were talk, game or sitcom.

Arbisser said her mother took delight in that part of her career.

"The things that she enjoyed were some of the silly things," Arbisser said. "She enjoyed meeting crazy people who did all the movies and sitcoms and cameos she did. In fact, she really enjoyed it and got a kick out of it. She felt like she was on a mission in life and really loved to be able to be present."

During her many public and private visits to the Quad-Cities, Brothers was a frequent speaker at events. One of those was an appearance before the Davenport Schools Foundation, where Brothers spoke at a 1999 celebration of reaching its $1.8 million goal. Money raised went to professional development programs for teachers.

Brothers' appearance gave the foundation visibility, credibility and validity, said Larry Minard, who succeeded Arbisser as the board chairman in 1999.

"Lisa Arbisser and her mother and her father hadn't been involved in foundations before, and this was something new here. The idea of raising private money for public schools was at that time a new concept," Minard said. "It certainly set us up to continue the work we are doing as it has evolved over the years."

Arbisser said that she had not yet read the tributes to her mother from Brothers' successors, such as Dr. Phil McGraw and Dr. Laura Schlessinger,  or the outpouring of affection and admiration nationwide.

"I don't exactly know what happened other than the calls we got. I do know I've had beautiful messages on my email and my voicemail and so on from people far and wide who I've known before," Arbisser said.

"The message must have gotten out fast and furious, the way she would have wanted."

 

 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.