Betty White, Trailblazer and Beloved 'Golden Girls' Actress, Dead at 99, Weeks Before 100th Birthday

Betty White
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In a career that spanned nearly eight decades, Betty White remained a fan favorite through it all.

Betty White, a trailblazer whose characters in television and film such as "The Golden Girls," "Hot in Cleveland" and "The Proposal," has died. She was 99.

The beloved actress died Friday morning at her California home just 17 days before her 100th birthday.

White was particularly cautious during the COVID-19 pandemic and reportedly stayed home, read, watched TV and did crossword puzzles.

Just this week, she tweeted about how she was excited to celebrate her centennial.

White, who appeared on People magazine’s cover this week, told the magazine in an exclusive interview that “I'm so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age.”

“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” agent and close friend Jeff Witjas said in a statement to People.

"I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much," Witjas continued. "I don't think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again."

White had an illustrious career that spanned over 60 years and included famous roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland.” White won seven Emmys and proved with age comes an even finer tuning of comedy. 

In 2010, thanks to an online viral campaign, White hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the first time. The episode is regarded by fans as one of the best in the show’s long history. She also made history as the oldest person to ever host the show at 88. The episode, which featured musical guest Jay-Z, drew the highest ratings for “SNL” in 18 months and earned her her seventh and final Emmy, History reported.

White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1922 to Christine Tess, a homemaker, and Horace Logan White, a lighting company executive. The only child, White and her parents eventually moved to California where she attended high school in Beverly Hills before launching her career in radio and television.

She was a pioneering TV talk show host and producer in the 1950s and also became a celebrity panelist on TV game shows before finding fame on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” History reported.

White was married three times in her life. She wed Dick Barker, an Air Force Pilot, in 1945, but the couple divorced that same year. Then she married talent agent Lane Allen in 1947; they divorced two years later, as he wanted her to stop working and be a housewife.

In 1963, she married TV host Allen Ludden and was with him until his death in 1981. She never married again after Ludden’s death. 

White's death was mourned by both fans and those within Hollywood, as the nonagenarian was widely considered an icon to all. 

"The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret," Ryan Reynolds, who co-starred with White in "The Proposal," wrote on Twitter

Seth Meyers wrote: "RIP Betty White, the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party.  A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end."

"Y’all, with the passing of #BettyWhite we have lost one of the best humans ever!" LeVar Burton wrote.

"A spirit of goodness and hope. Betty White was much beloved because of who she was, and how she embraced a life well lived. Her smile. Her sense of humor. Her basic decency," journalist Dan Rather tweeted. "Our world would be better if more followed her example. It is diminished with her passing."

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