Betty White who was born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, began her career as a radio personality in Los Angeles in the 1930s, but her career took off when she landed the role of Rose Nylund in the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls. Her lengthy career with a successful return as the host of “Saturday Night Live” at the age of 88.
Ms. White died on Friday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99 years old at the time and Jeff Witjas, her lifelong friend and agent, confirmed her death just three weeks before her 100th birthday.
“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” Witjas said. “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.”
Betty White is the only child of Horace and Tess (Cachikis) White Her father worked as an electrical engineer, and her mother worked as a housewife. Betty’s family moved to Los Angeles when she was a toddler, and she grew up there.
She appeared in multiple student performances at Beverly Hills High School, where she graduated in 1939, and even composed her class’s graduation play, in which she played the lead role. During WWII, she was a member of the American Women’s Voluntary Services and drove a “PX truck” distributing soap, toothpaste, and candy to soldiers stationed at government-run gun emplacements in the Santa Monica and Hollywood hills.
In a television career that spanned seven decades and was certified by the 2014 edition of “Guinness World Records” as the longest ever for a female entertainer, Ms. White won five Primetime Emmys and one competitive Daytime Emmy as well as a lifetime achievement Daytime, Emmy, in 2015 and a Los Angeles regional Emmy in 1952 she won five Primetime Emmys and one competitive Daytime Emmy.
Ms. White was the last of the show’s four stars to live. Rue McClanahan died in 2010, Estelle Getty died in 2008, Bea Arthur died in 2009, and Estelle Getty died in 2008.
When Ms. White first appeared on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” she was past 50 and already a television veteran, but her work there catapulted her career to new heights.
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” a comedy about a young, unmarried television news producer in Minneapolis, was one of the most popular comedies of its time or any other, thanks to clever writing, Ms. Moore’s captivating presence, and a stellar supporting ensemble. Ms. White’s Sue Ann stood out even among scene-stealing stars like Ms. Moore, Ed Asner, and Valerie Harper.
The character, who first appeared in the fourth season of the program, was designed to be cloying, calculating, and predatory, her deception always accompanied by a lovely grin. The producers wanted a “Betty White type” to play the part, but they didn’t ask Ms. White right away since she and Ms. Moore were good friends, and the producers were scared that if she didn’t get the part or didn’t want it, the friendship would suffer.
“They went through about 12 people and couldn’t find anybody sickening enough,” Ms. White told Modern Maturity magazine in 1998, “so they called me.”
Ms. White was still performing voice-over work as late as 2019, most notably as Bitey White, a toy tiger in the animated film “Toy Story 4.” She had planned to mark her 100th birthday with a one-night-only film that would be screened in select venues. She had also just given an interview to People magazine in which she discussed her life as she approached 100 years old.
On the 2018 Emmy Awards telecast, she made one of her last in-person appearances.