On December 31, 2021, television icon Betty White passed away at the age of 99. For many Betty was a relief from the daily tasks of life as she was broadcast into homes across the nation, often in a comedic role. She was most well known for roles like Rose Nylud in Golden Girls, Sue Ann Tivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and many more, including her own 1952 show Life with Elizabeth. Having created Bandy Productions in partnership with George Tibbles and Don Fedderson, she journeyed behind the camera and became one of the early women to work in production. She touched the hearts of generations of Americans and will be truly missed.
Starting her career in entertainment in the thirties Betty was a household name for almost 90 years. Her career spanned over radio, television, books, modeling, and film. In each story she told there was something special which created a connection between her and her audience. Not only did she create a safe space in the nation through storytelling, but she also contributed to World War II war efforts as a member of the American Women’s Voluntary Service.
In her nearly 100 years not only was she a household name, Betty had many philanthropic endeavours, most notable among them her work with animals. From childhood she had a soft spot for them. This love moved further into adulthood and eventually in her career; she worked with many nonprofit organizations by “donations and volunteering to fundraising and recording public service announcements.” (Today) In 2009 she received the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Award which “pays tribute to extraordinary people and organisations” ( GIM International) Another endeavor in the health of animals was the creation of The Betty White Wildlife Fund, a foundation which “gives wildlife researchers timely monetary aid to respond to unexpected events – such as natural disasters and emerging diseases – that result in the immediate need for animal health research” (Morris Animal Foundation).
What makes an icon? Is it someone people of all ages can look up to? A person who shows altruistic traits? A name known worldwide? An easily recognizable face? Or is it all of this bundled together into one person? To me Betty White is the icon of a generation: her work was not only for the good of herself, but also for others. Throughout her life she made conscious efforts to create a better world, and although she wasn’t perfect, as nobody is, she was and continues to be a face of strength, comedy, kindness, and generosity for all who need it. Thank you for being a friend Betty.