Actress Betty White dies just shy of her 100th birthday

Earlier this week she said she was 'lucky' to be in good health

Published Last updated

Comedic actress Betty White, who capped a career of more than 80 years by becoming America's geriatric sweetheart after Emmy-winning roles on television sitcoms "The Golden Girls" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," has died, less than three weeks shy of her 100th birthday, People magazine reported on Friday, quoting her agent.

Her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas told the magazine: "Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever."

Earlier this week, the actress said she was “lucky” to be in good health and “feel so good” as she approached her landmark 100th birthday.

Actress Betty White poses for a photograph in Los Angeles, California
Actress Betty White poses for a photograph in Los Angeles, California

White told People magazine: “I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age. It’s amazing.

“I try to avoid anything green. I think it’s working.”

In a youth-driven entertainment industry where an actress over 40 is facing career twilight, White was an elderly anomaly who was a star in her 60s and a pop culture phenomenon in her 80s and 90s.

Playing on her imminent likability, White was still starring in a TV sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland," at age 92 until it was canceled in late 2014.

Ryan Reynolds, Kathy Griffin and Reese Witherspoon are among the celebrity figures from around the globe who have paid tribute to “brilliant talent” Betty White following her death aged 99.

Reynolds, who starred alongside White in the 2009 romantic comedy The Proposal, shared a photo to Instagram of her smiling and giving the camera a thumbs-up.

He wrote in an emotional tribute: “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.”

Reynolds and White often joked about each other in the media and in an interview with People ahead of White’s upcoming 100th birthday on January 17, she teased him about having a crush on her, saying: “I’ve heard Ryan can’t get over his thing for me but Robert Redford is The One.”

Comedian and actress Griffin recalled fond memories with White in a long post to social media where she revealed that the first time she met White was when the actress made an appearance on the sitcom Suddenly Susan in the late 1990s and Griffin received a joking jab from White for stealing her parking space.

She added: “She treated me like we were in the same club or something.

“She actually treated me like an equal in the comedy gurrrl world.

“She was as sharp and funny as she was soft and wise and no matter how long this world continues to spin, there will be only one Betty White.”

Legally Blonde star Witherspoon praised White for “making us all laugh” as she reshared an announcement for her death by Vanity Fair magazine, adding: “So sad to hear about Betty White passing.

“I loved watching her characters that brought so much joy.

“Thank you, Betty, for making us all laugh!”

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres said that White had led an “exceptional life” and that she was “grateful for every second” she got to spend with her.

American singer and TV presenter Dionne Warwick called her a “brilliant talent” and said she had “the pleasure of getting to know Betty White and shared a few giggles with her”.

Singer Nancy Sinatra revealed that she could not stop crying after the news of White’s death.

She added: “Godspeed, Betty White, you will be remembered and treasured forever.”

During her career, she has written several books and has won five Primetime Emmy Awards out of 21 nominations, and a handful of other top accolades.

The screen veteran was also named the female entertainer with the longest television career by Guinness World Records, having started out in 1939.