Betty White, the longest-tenured woman on television and a longtime animal welfare advocate who played a key role in the development of El Dorado Park’s pet care village, died today at age 99.
White died in her Brentwood home, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. A death investigation unit responded to the home around 9:30 Friday morning and reported that she died of natural causes and there was no evidence of foul play.
White’s agent and close friend Jeff Witjas confirmed her death to Variety, saying in a statement, “Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever.
“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.”
Flowers will be placed on White’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6747 Hollywood Blvd., at 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Hollywood Historic Trust. White was honored with her Walk of Fame star in the Television category on Feb. 18, 1988. Her star is beside the star of her late husband, Allen Ludden.
“The Hollywood community and fans around the world are in mourning the huge loss of our Golden Girl, Betty White, who gave so many of us so much joy throughout the years,” Walk of Fame Producer Ana Martinez said in a statement on behalf of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
“Although, her star and the star of her late husband Allen Ludden are side by side, it helps to know that she is now with her husband, who she loved so much. We send our sincere condolences to her family. May she rest in peace.”
White is on the cover of the latest edition of People Magazine, which hit newsstands Wednesday. She went to Twitter on Tuesday to announce it.
“My 100th birthday… I cannot believe it is coming up, and People Magazine is celebrating with me! The new issue of @people is available on newsstands nationwide tomorrow.”
The magazine quoted White on her key to staying upbeat, as being “born a cockeyed optimist.” She added, “I got it from my mom, and that never changed … I always find the positive.”
Celebrities began tweeting after news of White’s death broke. Henry Winkler wrote, saying it is “very hard to absorb you are not here anymore… Thank you for your humor, your warmth and your activism.” White’s co-star from “Hot in Cleveland,” Valerie Bertinelli posted on Twitter: “Rest in peace, sweet Betty. My God, how bright heaven must be right now.”
Seth Myers tweeted: “RIP Betty White, the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end.”
Ryan Reynolds tweeted: “The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.”
Born Jan. 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Ill., just outside Chicago, Betty Marion White moved with her family to Southern California as a child and graduated from Beverly Hills High School. She bypassed college to pursue a career in radio and went to television in the 1950s, co-hosting “The Al Jarvis Show,” a 5 1/2-hour live daily program on what is now KCOP-TV Channel 13.
White starred in numerous hit shows for more than 60 years, including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” as Sue-Ann on in the 1970s—which earned her a pair of Emmy awards—and as Rose on “The Golden Girls,” which ran from 1985-92, where she collected three more Emmys. White won a total of seven Emmy awards and received 20 nominations over the course of her career. She additionally earned SAG awards in 2011 and 2012 for “Hot in Cleveland,” a show in which she was hired for a guest role in the pilot but was kept on as a series regular.
White was also an animal welfare advocate, who worked organizations including the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, The Morris Animal Foundation, African Wildlife Foundation, and Actors & Others for Animals.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) issued a statement Friday afternoon, saying the organization was “saddened by the passing of Betty White, American actress and activist. Ms. White was a friend to animals and worked closely with spcaLA to promote their humane treatment since the 1940s.”
Madeline Bernstein, spcaLA president, said in the statement, “Betty and I would joke that she would outlive us all. She was inspired to lend her celebrity to provide a voice for animals, and brought much attention to the cause of animal welfare. We will miss our Friend for Life.”
The statement credited White with participating in spcaLA telethons which raised money for programs and services, voiced public service announcements and fundraised to build the spcaLA PD Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center in Long Beach, “which has provided adoption and enrichment services for thousands of homeless animals since it opened in 2001.”
“Ms. White’s legacy will continue in spcaLA’s work to fulfill its mission of preventing cruelty to animals through intervention, law enforcement, education and advocacy,” the statement said. “Anyone who would like to make a donation in Betty White’s honor may do so at spcaLA.com/donate.”
SpcaLA spokesperson Ana Bustilloz said White actively fundraised for the Village, donated to its construction and attended its 2001 opening.
“It was no surprise she came to our aid when we set out to build the Village,” said Bustilloz.
Staff Writer Anthony Pignataro contributed to this story.