Betty White, the trailblazing television star whose more than eight-decade career saw her go from unforgettable roles on “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to becoming a cultural icon in her 80s and 90s, has died less than three weeks before her 100th birthday.
Her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas later confirmed the news to People magazine.
“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” Witjas said in a statement.
“I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. 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.”
The eight-time Emmy winner had just spoken to People for this week’s issue celebrating what would have been her birthday and said that she was “in such good health.”
“I try to avoid anything green. I think it’s working,” she quipped at the time.
Fans gathered outside White’s home Friday afternoon to pay their respects.
“We were hoping she would make it to 100,” Michael Douglas, 37 of LA, told The Post while wearing a “Golden Girls” face mask. “She was so sweet and caring. She was America’s grandmother. I saw my grandma in her. Our parents grew up watching her, and then we grew up watching her shows. I’m just very sad.”
White held the record for the longest TV career of any entertainer, making her debut in 1939 when the medium was just an experiment and going on to appear as an actress, host and in-demand guest well into her 90s.
But she’ll be best remembered for her scene-stealing roles in two pioneering sitcoms — as the promiscuous cooking show host Sue Ann Nivens on the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s and sweet-natured simpleton Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” in the 80s.
“If an actor can get one great character in their career that’s something,” Syracuse University TV professor Robert Thompson told The Post.
“Those two shows are her great legacy … because people will continue to watch that stuff. They’ve really got classic status.”
White was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park on Jan. 17, 1922, the only child of parents Tess, a homemaker, and Horace White, an electrical engineer.
The family moved to California a few years later — eventually winding up in Los Angeles, where the future star grew up in the shadow of Hollywood.
By Ruth Brown, Nicholas Hautman and Marjorie Hernandez