Beloved actress and Hollywood mainstay Betty White has died.
According to her longtime agent Jeff Witjas, White passed away in her sleep early in the day on New Year’s Eve. Witjas told The Associated Press, “I truly never thought she was going to pass away. She meant the world to me as a friend. She was the most positive person I’ve ever known.”
Though it had been over a year since White was spotted in public, Witjas said she wasn’t suffering from ill health but rather chose to self-isolate as a precautionary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
White was due to celebrate her 100th birthday on January 17, a milestone at the heart of several high-profile tributes. One of the most anticipated projects was a film entitled “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration” that producers planned to screen at a number of LA movie theaters. The documentary, which will now be renamed “Betty White: A Celebration,” features a slew of A-list actors and comedians as well as archive footage culled from works released throughout White’s more than 60-year career.
A legend through and through, White joined show business when radio was still the primary method of entertainment. After being told she wasn’t “photogenic enough” for the silver screen, White took to reading commercials and acting out bit parts on radio shows before getting her own vehicle called The Betty White Show.
TV roles soon followed, including hosting gigs with Al Jarvis, and a dual role both starring in and producing Live with Elizabeth. Over the next six or so decades, White appeared in countless movies and TV shows including Boston Legal, The Carol Burnett Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland, and a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live.
As for her personal life, White was married three times, ultimately settling down with “love of her life” Allen Ludden, host of TV’s Password. Ludden died in 1981 after a more than year-long battle with stomach cancer. White has spoken of her choice not to have children, saying she preferred to focus on career, but with her marriage to Ludden she became a stepmother three times over, a role she grew to cherish.
White was also a devoted supporter of animal rights and was known to have a variety of actual pets as well as an impressive stuffed animal collection. “Animals don’t lie,” said White of her passion. “Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.”
The Emmy Award winner’s passing was met with widespread sorrow, with everybody from Michelle Obama to Ryan Reynolds paying tribute on social media and through interviews.
As for her own views on death and aging, White once said, “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.”