Betty White, the comedic actress who was a television mainstay for seven decades, died on Friday. She was 99, and less than three weeks away from her 100th birthday on Jan. 17, 2022. “Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” her agent and close friend Jeff 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.” No specific cause of death was cited and she recently gave an interview to People in which she talked about her upcoming 100th birthday celebration. “I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age,” she said in the interview published Dec. 28. “It’s amazing.”
During her career, White played two of the most memorable characters in the history of sitcoms. First, as the man-crazy TV hostess Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then as the lovable but ditzy Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls. In an industry that prizes youth and often tosses aside older stars, White was an anomaly and she managed to obtain a whole new level of fame later in the life.
In 2010, she starred in a Snickers candy bar commercial in which she was shown being tackled. People loved it so much that a huge campaign for her to host Saturday Night Live was born. She ended up winning an Emmy for best guest actress in a comedy series for her appearance on the show in May 2010. Overall, White won five Primetime Emmys and one competitive Daytime Emmy. She also got a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy in 2015. “I think when I turned 90, it somehow fascinated people that I was still working. I’m very grateful that they still invite me to do things, but it comes as much as a surprise to me as it does to them,” White said in 2012.
As soon as White’s death was announced, tributes started pouring in as many shared memories of her on social media. “Our national treasure, Betty White, has passed just before her 100th birthday,” wrote actor George Takei. “Our Sue Ann Nivens, our beloved Rose Nylund, has joined the heavens to delight the stars with her inimitable style, humor, and charm.” Ryan Reynolds, who starred alongside White in The Proposal, tweeted that “the world looks different now,” and said White was “great at defying expectations.” Kathy Griffin wrote a Twitter thread with several anecdotes about White. “No matter how long this world continues to spin, there will be only one Betty White,” Griffin wrote. Many were quick to note that White’s death capped a terrible year. “Man, 2021, you just couldn’t slip out without one more punch in the face, could you?” wrote Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.