Television’s enduring Golden Girl Betty White has passed away. She was 99.
Even though Betty was approaching 100 years old, her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas said in a statement to PEOPLE on Friday, “I assumed she would live forever.” “She was really passionate about animals, which I shall miss dearly as well as the animal kingdom. Since Betty always desired to be with her dearest spouse Allen Ludden, I don’t believe she ever feared dying. She had hope that they will reunite.”
Betty passed away peacefully in her sleep at home early this morning, according to Witjas.
On January 17, White was preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday. Prior to her centennial year, White talked candidly to PEOPLE about how she was feeling about reaching 100.
The seasoned actress remarked, “I’m really fortunate to be in such good condition and feel so well at this age. It’s incredible.
White claimed that the reason for her positive outlook was that she was “born a cockeyed optimist.” She claimed, “I received that from my mum, and that never altered. “I always look for the good.”
Naturally, the well-known actress also made a joke about her longevity, telling PEOPLE: “I try to stay away from anything green. It appears to be working.”
Editor-in-chief of PEOPLE Dan Wakeford expressed his sadness over Betty White’s demise, saying, “The news extremely saddens us.” She recently decided to collaborate with PEOPLE to honour her incredible life and career, and we are honoured by this decision.
With a career that began in the early years of the medium and spanned decades, White was a kind and well-liked figure on television. She made her television debut in the I Love Lucy-like Life with Elizabeth in 1952, a show she also created. This was many years before her hilarious appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s and The Golden Girls in the 1980s.
After starring in a Snickers commercial during the Super Bowl, she experienced an accolade-filled comeback in 2010, when surveys and petitions overwhelmingly named her the public’s choice to host Saturday Night Live, emcee a number of award shows, and even be a sergeant’s date at a Marine Corps ball.
She then went on to star in and steal the show on the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland, even earning her 17th and seventh Emmy nominations. She made her television debut in May 2012 on the NBC comedy reality programme Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, a senior Punk’d. She continued to be a fan favourite.
Betty Marion White, an only child, was born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois. During the Great Depression, she relocated to Los Angeles with her parents, travelling salesman and electrical engineer Horace White and housewife Tess Curts White. Her passion for animals was stoked by annual camping trips with her family in the Sierra Nevadas. In 1999, White admitted to PEOPLE, “We once ended up with 26 dogs.”
She had aspirations of being a writer or a forest ranger as a young child, but when she got the lead role in the play she had written for her final year of high school, she discovered her passion for acting.
She first married WWII pilot Dick Barker in 1945 (the union only lasted a few months when he moved her to an Ohio poultry farm). Then in 1947, she married agent Lane Allen, who wanted her to leave the entertainment industry.
When her marriage to that man ended in 1949, she began working on local television with an L.A. deejay named Al Jarvis, which eventually led to the creation of her first sitcom, the widely broadcast Life with Elizabeth. The show won White her first Emmy despite its modest budget and sparse settings (in fact, it was a series of comedic domestic vignettes starring Del Moore’s irritated Alvin and daffy Elizabeth played by White).
After graduating from high school in the 1940s, White started a career in entertainment. She started out in radio and eventually received her own programme, The Betty White Show. She joined Al Jarvis as co-host of his Los Angeles daily variety show Hollywood on Television in 1949.
After Jarvis departed the programme in 1952, White took over as host on her own. For the next four years, she worked six days a week for five and a half hours of live impromptu television. In 1951, she received a nomination for best actress in a television programme for her first Emmy Award. It was the first prize and category in the brand-new awards ceremony devoted only to television stars who are women.
In the 1970s, she appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, when she received her second and third Emmy nominations. In 1983, she won the first-ever Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show presenter for the NBC programme Just Men!
Following that, White’s output only increased, reaching a peak with The Golden Girls, where she appeared from 1985 until 1992 as the endearing Rose Nylund. Rose, a native of St. Olaf, Minnesota, was Charlie Nylund’s widow. (At first, White was offered the part of seductive Southern beauty Blanche; however, Rue McClanahan finally won the part. The cast also included Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty.)
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Following the 1992 finale of The Golden Girls, White starred in a number of TV projects, including The Golden Palace (a spin-off of The Golden Girls without Arthur), Bob, and Maybe This Time. She also made guest appearances on shows like Ally McBeal and That ’70s Show, where she played Kitty’s mother Bea Sigurdson.
She made several TV movies in the early 2000s following that before playing Catherine Piper in Boston Legal from 2005 to 2008 and later Ann Douglas in The Bold and the Beautiful from 2006 to 2009.
In 2011, 2012, and 2013, White received three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for her excellent work as a female actor in a comedy series. The first two times, she prevailed.
In a January 2021 interview with PEOPLE, White stated that “The secret to living a long and happy life is to have a sense of humour: “Just looking at the good side and not concentrating on the downside. Being negative consumes too much energy.”
And she had lived by that for many years. She told PEOPLE in 1999 that she tried to maximise each day. While it’s happening, you must appreciate how wonderful life is, she advised. Because everything will vanish before you realise it.