Just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday, living legend Betty White passed on in style. She left us on New Year’s Eve – honestly, the most appropriate day for her to make a grand exit.
Many of us had already planned to celebrate a century of her gifts and love on her birthday, January 17, and so honoring her work, life, and memory is a bittersweet way to start 2022.
She was America’s grandmother, always bestowing kindness, wisdom, and a glowing positivity that often shined best through humor. So, though many of us already miss her, let’s take some time to smile and laugh the way she would want us to.
Her Beauty Came from Optimism
Betty proclaimed herself “born a cockeyed optimist,” and spent her entire career using the power of positivity to connect with others on a basic level. She attributed this trait to her mother and used classic principles of manners and decency to “always find the positive.”
Her most trusted vehicle to deliver this energy was humor. From the start of her career, she was seen joking and laughing. Her smile never changed no matter how many wrinkles formed throughout the years, and that displayed a less-celebrated beauty that people everywhere can appreciate.
Everyone she loved and worked with had wonderful things to say about the woman behind the legend, especially in the 2018 documentary Betty White: First Lady of Television, which is available on Netflix.
Her career began in the 1930s but didn’t take off until 1945. She was often turned away for being “unphotogenic,” and it was her optimism that drove her to “keep plugging away.” Once she did start getting jobs, she went beyond just acting, taking on the role of producing. This offered women a voice without being brazen or pushy, and her love of life was extended well beyond her career.
Dedication To Her Values
Before finding success in television, Betty White had to halt her ambitions for a greater calling. In 1941, just before her 20th birthday, Betty joined the American Women's Voluntary Services to do her part for the war effort during World War II. This service provided numerous roles such as: navigation, firefighting, ambulance driving, and more.
As a volunteer, Betty tracked supplies and organized events for soldiers before they were deployed. When asked about her role, she said, “It was a strange time and out of balance with everything.” She noted how young people today must feel the same way and offered her understanding, compassion, and support.
As that period of uncertainty waned and her popularity increased, Betty remained true to herself by taking on roles with heart. She became a regular on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and stunned audiences on The Golden Girls.
Each role seemed to break stereotypes or offer a comedic lightheartedness that displayed the better aspects of femininity and aging. Younger audiences became familiar with her as she played roles alongside younger stars like Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Bell, who recently paid tributes to her in their own personal way.
Although she never gave birth to biological children, she was a stepmother to three (from her 1963 marriage to her third husband Allen Ludden) and admitted that the idea of motherhood didn’t align with her personality type. She knew herself and what she was capable of. Instead of comparing herself to others, she trusted her intuition to do what she felt was best. She simply put it, “I didn’t choose to have children because I’m focused on my career. I just don’t think that as compulsive as I am, that I could manage both.”
Despite this, she did nurture others, including animals. She was a lifelong animal rights advocate who believed in the power of promoting what you love and leaving it at that. Instead of taking on the hard pressed “activist” line, she recognized the power of simply living out her ideals through her actions. Her connections with animals and the organizations that protect and preserve them were sacred to her and that reflected who she was.
Good Humor and Longevity
If there were a single defining characteristic about Betty White, it was her great sense of humor. She understood the power of laughter and how it connected people beyond all boundaries.
She could shoot off a joke and touch audiences in a unique way, but this became more defined as she matured into elderly roles. We all loved her as the sassy grandma in movies like The Proposal, and cheered her on as she displayed an honesty not often seen for older women in Hot in Cleveland.
Her interviews never disappointed. The most recent captivated us all when she credited her secret to living a long life to a diet in which “I try to avoid anything green.”
She flirted with Ryan Reynolds, who shared in a running joke that he had a crush on her. And there may have been a little truth to that from an admiration standpoint.
Saying goodbye to such a vibrant figure isn’t easy. She lived a long, full life that offered us not only hope and inspiration but laughter and a fun role model.
Although she has left us, her spirit thrives in all that she shared. It’s alive and waiting for us to revisit with care. So whether we’re mourning or celebrating America’s Grandma, this year starts with the love that she gave and hopes for everyone to find their inner Betty White.
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