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Betty White, Hollywood legend and WWII volunteer, dies at 99

Betty White, appearing in uniform during her time in American Women’s Voluntary Services, and again decades later. (U.S. Army/Released)
December 31, 2021

Beloved actress and Hollywood legend Betty White died on Friday at age 99, just three weeks before her 100th birthday on Jan. 17.

White’s agent and close friend Jeff Witjas confirmed her death in a statement to People Magazine.

“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” Witjas said. “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.” 

Earlier this week, White had told People Magazine, “I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age. It’s amazing.”

White gained television notoriety in comedic roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s, then “The Golden Girls” in the 1980s. She appeared in various roles from a Super Bowl commercial for Snickers, to hosting “Saturday Night Live,” appearing on “Punk’d” and starring in a more recent work from 2009 to 2015, “Hot in Cleveland.”

Before her award-laden television career, White paused her star ambitions just before she turned 20 to volunteer for the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) during World War II. The organization formed in 1940, growing to 325,000 women members at its peak, and closing after the war ended in 1945.

White donned a uniform and helped truck supplies for the war effort and staged send-offs for deploying soldiers.

“It was a strange time and out of balance with everything,” she once said of her wartime service, “Which I’m sure the young people are going through now. We’ll never learn. We’ll never learn.”

After the war ended, then 23-year-old White married military pilot Dick Barker and moved on to a chicken farm. The marriage was short-lived, however, and the pair divorced after six months.

In an interview with AARP, White said although the marriage lasted six months, it “helped me to appreciate the real thing when it came along.”

While serving as a guest panelist on the game show Password in 1963, she met host Allen Ludden, who she married. The pair were together until 1981 when Ludden died of cancer.

White had told CNN’s Anderson Cooper she never remarried again because, “I had the love of my life. If you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?”