On Friday morning, Dec. 31, the world was preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve and send off a year that didn’t really hit the high marks we hoped that it would. As we all joined, virtually or in person, with friends and loved ones to celebrate a new year — breaking news stories began to leave us all emotional as news of America’s Golden Girl broke our hearts. Betty White passed away at age 99, and none of us expected that heartache.
A life so well lived undoubtedly deserves to be honored. She lived a long life and we should be glad that she left us such a beautiful legacy? Glad is an understatement, but in the last couple of days as fans, colleagues, loved ones, and friends have sat with the news of her passing and felt all of the emotions from it, the collective response is that we all hoped (against reality, sure) that we’d have White with us forever.
We don’t know a world without Betty White, but it sure doesn’t seem as warm or beautiful a place as a world with her in it. As we’ve said before, we’re sure her homegoing celebration was something full of embraces, laughs, vodka on ice, and cheesecake, but for us — it was emotional.
As we look back on a life as golden as the girl, we feel lucky to have been inspired by her tenacity and zest for everything.
White’s love for animals should inspire us all.
“My preoccupation with animals is an open secret,” revealing this sentiment in her book, Betty & Friends: My Life At The Zoo. As Variety shares, in 1971, White created a show called The Pet Set and took on hosting duties. She shared a tweet in February of 2021 that announced the re-release of the show on AppleTV.
Fans have seen several images of over the years, clips from shows and films alongside her work as an actress — but the way she lit up around animals was always on a level all its own. White grew up with parents who loved and adored animals as much as she did, inspiring her own love for them.
In an interview with Chow Tales, the animal-lover joked about the power her parents’ cat Toby had:
“When I was brought home from the hospital, my mother said we had an orange marmalade cat, Toby. If Toby hadn’t approved of the new baby I would have been sent right back to the hospital.”
In the same interview, she shares that her parents would go on walks and come home with a new pet who followed them, asking their daughter if they could “keep them.” White was the happiest “only child” there ever was, as she had several four-legged siblings to grow up with.
White didn’t just adore animals in her youth; she made it her passion and often said that acting allowed her to keep the animal work in business. However, she didn’t call herself an activist and made sure others didn’t either. Speaking to TVGuide in 2009, she shared that the term activist can come with a negative connotation that makes it hard to connect to.
“I don’t get into the political side or the demonstrative side. I’m just totally devoted to health and welfare. You know what the problem is that animal activists sometimes have? They only concentrate on the heartbreaking things to the point where the general public thinks, “Oh, here comes those animal folks again, and I’m going to hear all the things I don’t want to hear.” They forget to celebrate all the gains that we’ve made. … Sure, there are still big problems, but we’re making some good moves. I’m a big cockeyed optimist. I try to accentuate the positive as opposed to the negative.”
She worked closely with the L.A. Zoo and the Morris Animal Foundation across the span of her life, but that is just naming two of several. She traveled to zoos and sanctuaries across the United States to ensure that animals were cared for and their health and needs could be researched and funded. Her projects helped the animal world, and many have shared heart-warming sentiments about her time with them.
In a note to Variety,Tiffany Grunert, president, and CEO of Morris Animal Foundation, shared that they’ll miss her for so many reasons.
“It is hard to imagine a world without Betty in it. She was a tremendous animal advocate who tirelessly supported the work of Morris Animal Foundation to improve the health of animals globally. All of us at the foundation are mourning the loss of this amazing woman. We will miss her wit, her intelligence and, most of all, her love of animals and commitment to advancing their health. She was a true inspiration to our staff, her fellow trustees, and all of our supporters.”
Greater Los Angeles Zoo president Tom Jacobson shared their condolences as they mourned the “true legend.”
“We are incredibly saddened to hear about Betty’s passing this morning and want to offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends as we collectively mourn the loss of a true legend, on and off the screen. Her work with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association spans more than five decades, and we are grateful for her enduring friendship, lifelong advocacy for animals and tireless dedication to supporting our mission.”
The animal world will miss the icon and the impact she made on advancing the care and health of animals is something we will all be better for.
America’s Golden Girl and other iconic acting roles will stand the test of time.
While White has a great list of acting credits to her name, most knew her best as the loveable Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls. Nylund was naive as a character, someone who asked many questions and never stopped being curious, although that didn’t make her a risk-taker. She grew up in St. Olaf and wasn’t exposed to the same type of childhood as the rest of the girls, but her stories were arguably the most sincere and fun. Her personality was the most heartfelt, and she was the most kind. Rose was the golden girl you hope to become as you age.
White’s comedic timing was so fantastic that she improvised several scenes in the show’s history, and it was hard for the rest of the cast to keep their composure. This scene has been shared on Twitter as one of the best for years, and it’s even more special now.
Rose Nylund was just one of many beloved characters. She shared others like Gammy from The Proposal, Sue Ann Nivens from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Vickie Angel from Date With The Angels, and Elizabeth in Life With Elizabeth, which earned her her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination. The screen star also had a show of her own, The Betty White Show, where she played Joyce Whitman’s character. These are only a few of her roles in her lengthy and remarkable career as an actress.
She was also a host and contestant on several game shows where her personality and comedic versatility further cemented her as a staple to the comedy realm.
One of ‘her most recent and treasured roles is Elka from Hot In Cleveland, the sitcom from 2010 to 2015. Some of our favorite blooper videos come from Hot In Cleveland, and it’s clear that she spent so much of her career making friendships as she was working.
You couldn’t be in a room with the comedy legend and not fall in love with her.
White didn’t just do her best on set; she also did what was best for those she worked with. As tributes have poured out for her across social media, several of her co-stars share their fondness for ways she enhanced their time on various projects. This note from Don Cheadle is one of many who praise her generosity.
Actor Arthur Duncan credits her with his break in television in a documentary titled Betty White: The First Lady of Television on Netflix.
“The first TV show I had ever been on, and I credit Betty White for really getting me started in show business, in television.”
An article from the Washington Post recalls the actress standing up against racism in television, and the documentary focused on it too. The legend recalled the ruckus in the south in the same documentary and noted that they threatened to take the show off the air entirely if they didn’t get rid of Arthur because of the color of his skin. Duncan said that people resented his presence on the show but that there was never a question for Betty.
She gave them a three-word response, and Duncan remained on the series. So just what did she tell those who opposed Duncan?
“Live with it.”
The steadfast star didn’t stand for opposition to anyone working towards their dream, and pushed against the racism that threatened to end the series.
White had a service background in WWII.
Some fans don’t know that White served during World War II as a member of the American Women’s Voluntary Services, putting her modeling and entertainment career on hold. The USArmy shared more about the role she played with an article on their website.
“The AWVS sent female volunteers to take on roles including firefighting, ambulance and truck driving, and aerial photography.”
White shared more about her time with the AWVS in an interview with Cleveland Magazine and looked back on helping people fondly.
White’s Romance with husband Allen Ludden was always her great joy.
As we shared yesterday, White never remarried after the loss of her husband, and her reason was a simple one; she had the best with Ludden — why try to find something else? She was so grateful to have found Ludden, she spoke fondly of him often.
Ludden and White met when his wife was ill with cancer on a game show he hosted. The episode aired on the week of his wife’s passing. The two were reunited that summer via their agents, and it was a fast trip to love for the two of them. Ludden embraced that fast trip quicker than his future wife did and gave her an engagement ring very soon. She refused the ring, so he wore it around his neck, a constant reminder of his question for her.
The actress said the only regret she has in her life is not saying yes to that proposal sooner, and as her agent shared, she didn’t fear passing because she knew she’d be reunited with Ludden once again.
Betty White’s life in quotes and interviews that stole our hearts.
White had a life spanning 99 years and had a lot of advice to offer if we were keyed in enough to listen. Living through so much growth, change, and heartache but still holding on to joy and optimism is a trait many of us look up to. The Golden Girl knew that life could be shining and could also be dim, and she would rather have worked for happiness than sit in despair.
On friendship, there is an essential quote in her 2011 memoir, If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t)
“Friendship takes time and energy if it’s going to work. You can luck into something great, but it doesn’t last if you don’t give it proper appreciation. Friendship can be so comfortable, but nurture it—don’t take it for granted.”
It’s a habit many of us fall into unconsciously, but nurturing friendship is something you’ve got to work at every day. The people in our lives who love us are blessings, but it’s important to make sure we’re doing our best to love them back, and showing them that we appreciate them — simply for being part of our lives.
From the same memoir, she shared advice on leaving something behind when you’re gone and enjoying what you’ve got in the present. It really hits a little closer to home for all of us now.
“Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting. If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.”
On longevity, White never expected to reach the age she did — but she embraced it with deep gratitude.
“If one is lucky enough to be blessed with good health, growing older shouldn’t be something to complain about. It’s not a surprise, we knew it was coming—make the most of it. So you may not be as fast on your feet, and the image in your mirror may be a little disappointing, but if you are still functioning and not in pain, gratitude should be the name of the game.”
She also shared life advice on appreciating what you’ve got in an interview withCleveland Magazine.
“I had a wonderful couple of parents. I was an only child, and I’m sure I was spoiled, but if I didn’t appreciate something, there was hell to pay. You knew what you had, and you appreciated it.”
To honor her best, we leave you with a quote the veteran actress shared via an interview with Time Goes By on dealing with grief — something we’re all feeling at her loss.
“There’s no formula. Keep busy with your work and your life. You can’t become a professional mourner. It doesn’t help you or others. Keep the person in your heart all the time. Replay the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.”
Social media tributes pour out for our beloved golden girl.
Fans, friends, and loved ones are remembering her on social media and, while several of their tributes will leave you in tears, they’re also heartwarming and full of the love and joy she lived with.
White made people feel loved in every capacity, and the tributes that have poured out to her via social media prove that the legacy she leaves us all with, while award-winning and outstanding, is a legacy rooted in love. The screen queen wanted us all to live as cockeyed optimists, and, in her honor, we’re going to do our best. White was the best thing since before sliced bread, and she’ll be the best thing forever.
Here’s to you, Betty White, thank you for being our friend.