Betty White, the “golden girl,” dead at 99

betty white

Photo: Alan White / Wikimedia Commons
Betty White shined at the 41st Emmy Awards held in Pasadena, Calif., in in 1989.

She will live on forever as America’s sweetheart, Betty White, who died on Dec. 31, 2021, a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday on Jan. 17. 

The beloved actress and comedian had a Hollywood career that spanned seven decades, with work in radio, television, and film. She also authored several books, both fiction and nonfiction, and she worked as an activist for animal rights.

White was nominated for 21 prime-time Emmys and won five. The first was for Best Supporting Actress on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1976, her last for hosting Saturday Night Live in 2010. Her accomplishments are too numerous to list.

Betty Marion White was born in Oak Park, Ill. Her ancestry can be traced back to Denmark, Greece, and the British Isles. Her mother was a homemaker, her father was a lighting director, and his career took the family to Los Angeles. Betty attended Beverly Hills High School, where she got her first taste of serious writing and acting in a class play in which she was the star of the show. After graduation, she continued to work as a model and actor—and the rest is history.

While many American television viewers best remember White for her role as the man-hungry TV host on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s, it was her role as the cute but ditsy widow Rose Nylund in the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls that endeared her to Norwegian-American audiences. 

The lovable character Rose Nylund came from the fictional farming town St. Olaf in northern Minnesota, a town that many Norwegian Americans could somehow recognize. Most of Rose’s stories began, “Back in St. Olaf ….” Throughout the series, we learn about her life and loves there together with the town’s bungling “Scandihoovians.” 

Rose continues to have her followers, long after The Golden Girls ended its primetime run in 1992. Numerous websites are devoted to Rose Nylund and St. Olaf, and there is a popular channel on YouTube devoted to “Rose Nylund’s Funniest St. Olaf Stories.” The series continues to run in syndication, with no signs of stopping. Viewers continue to laugh about the language, customs, and cuisine of the quirky little Midwest town.

In a recent interview, White said that she was “born a cock-eyed optimist,” who always chose to see the positive side of life. With her sunny outlook and ground-breaking achievements, she has inspired generations of women in both entertainment and everyday life, the eternal golden girl Betty White.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 21, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.