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Love of her life. Betty White’s husband‘s name was the last word she said before she died on December 31, 2021, at the age of 99. Betty, who passed three weeks before her 100th birthday, has been married three times, but it was her most recent marriage to actor and TV host Allen Ludden that she called the “love” of her “life.”
Betty—whose full name was Betty Marion White—was born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois. She was the only child of Christine Tess, a homemaker, and Horace Logan White, a lighting company executive. When she was a year old, Betty’s family moved from Illinois to Alhambra, California, and later to Los Angeles, where Betty got her first taste of acting after she wrote and played the lead in her high school graduation play. After she graduated from high school, Bettyworked as a model and hd her first professional acting job at the Bliss Hayden Little Theatre in Beverly Hills. She went on to work on the radio and have her own radio show, The Betty White Show, before her television debut in 1949 on the variety show, Hollywood on Television.
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In 1952, Betty co-founded the production company, Bandy Productions, which produced its first TV show, Life With Elizabeth, a year later, with Betty playing the lead character. The show won Betty her first Emmy award and ran for three years. Betty went on to host her own talk show, The Betty White Show, from 1952 to 1954 before her show-stealing role as Sue Ann Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1973, which won her her second and third Emmy awards. Twelve years later, Betty was cast in what would be one of the signature roles in her career: Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, a TV show that followed the lives of four widowed or divorced women in their “golden years” as they shared a home in Miami. The series ran from 1985 to 1992 and won Betty another Emmy award.
After more than 50 years in Hollywood, Betty died on December 31, 2021. She passed in her sleep at her home in the Brentwood neighborhood of west Los Angeles at around 9:30 a.m. PT, according to TMZ. Her death came 30 years after the death of her third and last husband, Allen Ludden, who passed of stomach cancer on June 9, 1981. So who was Betty White’s husband and who were her ex-husbands before she found the love of her life? Read on for what we know about Betty White’s husband and why she never remarried after his death.
Allen Ludden (1963 – 1981)
Betty White and Allen Ludden, an actor and a TV show host, married on June 14, 1963. They were married for almost 18 years before Allen’s death on June 9, 1981 from stomach cancer. Betty and Allen met in 1961 on the set of the game show Password, which Allen was the host of and Betty was a contestant on. “We felt like we knew each other,” Betty said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation in 1997.
Betty and Allen started dating after the death of his wife, Margaret McGloin, whom he married October 11, 1943, died of cancer on October 30, 1961. Allen and Margaret shared three kids: son David and daughters Martha and Sarah. “He would call me from wherever he was working and say, ‘You wanna go out to dinner? You wanna have a date?'” Betty told People in a past interview of the early stages of her and Allen’s relationship. “And I’d say, ‘Sure!’ Well, going out to dinner meant he’d stop on the way home and pick up a chicken and put it on the barbecue. We’d put on a stack of records, have our barbecue and dance. We enjoyed each other.”
Within weeks of their relationship, Allen proposed to Betty “just as a joke.” Betty, who didn’t want to marry again, recalled the proposal in a past interview with People. “But he wouldn’t let up,” she said. When Betty refused his diamond ring, Allen wore it on a chain around his neck. On Easter 1963, she finally accepted his proposal after two years of dating. “[He sent me] this adorable fluffy white stuffed bunny,” Betty recalled to People. “And in its ears were gold leaves with ruby, diamond and sapphire earrings.” Betty and Allen wed on June 14, 1963. Allen died on June 9, 1981, a few weeks before their 18th wedding anniversary. “I wasted all that time we could have been together,” Betty said of Allen’s rejected proposals.
In a 2012 interview with CNN, Betty revealed why she decided to accept Allen’s proposal despite her resistance to be married again. “I just wasn’t about to take another chance,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘Am I going to live the rest of my life without this man?’ Thank goodness we got married when we did.” As for why Betty was attracted to Allen, she told CNN at the time that her late husband’s “enthusiasm” was what made her interested in him. “It was his enthusiasm,” she said. “He was interested in everything.”
Betty echoed the same sentiments in a past interview with People. “He was the most genuine man I’ve ever known,” she said. “I first fell in love with his enthusiasm. He was interested in everything.” In 1988, seven years after her husband’s death, Betty received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame beside Allen. “I cannot express what this day means to me,” she said at the time. “Don’t be surprised if in the wee hours of the morning our stars are fooling around.” Betty’s personal assistant Kiersten Mikelas also told People in a past interview that Betty kept a photo of Allen on her bedside table, which she kissed each morning. “She keeps a photo of him on her bedside table and blows him a kiss every morning,” Mikelas said. “At night, when she opens the shutters, she blows a kiss to him up in the sky.” In an interview with Anderson Cooper in 2011, Betty revealed why she never remarried after Allen’s death. “I had the love of my life. If you’ve had the best who needs the rest?” she said.
Allen was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer in the late 1970s. While he was sick with the disease, he and Betty built their dream home in Carmel, California. In a 1999 interview with People, Betty revealed that Allen slept two nights in the house before he died. “We took him back up to see the house finished, “she said. “He slept there two nights.” She continued, “I came upstairs, and our dogs were lying on his robe. I just fell apart, and we sat there together on the floor.”
According to Betty’s Mama’s Family co-star, Vicki Lawrence, Betty’s last word before she died on December 31, 2021, was her late husband’s name “Allen.” When Vicki heard about Betty’s death, she contacted their Mama’s Family co-star and friend Carol Burnett. “I texted Carol and said, ‘This just sucks. I hate this. It’s just horrible to see the people you love so much go away,’” Vicki told Page Six in January 2022. “Carol wrote back and said, ‘I know, I know. I spoke to Betty’s assistant, who was with her when she passed, and she said the very last word out of her mouth was ‘Allen.'” She continued, “How sweet is that? I said, ‘That is so sweet. God, I hope that’s true. For all of us, I really hope it’s true, a lovely thought.’”
Lane Allen (1947 – 1949)
Betty’s second husband was talent agent Lane Allen. The two married on November 8, 1947 when she was 27 years old. They were married for two years until their divorce in 1949. In an interview with Closer in 2017, Betty revealed that she and Lane divorced because he wanted a stay-at-home wife and a traditional family while she had dreams of making it as an actress. “I knew that I wasn’t going to be content to just stay home. I knew that a career was very much in my future, so I decided not to have children. In those days, people didn’t understand that as much as they do now,” she said.
Betty confirmed to Newsweek in a past interview that she and Lane split because he wanted her to give up her acting career. “We had a couple of very good years. But he wanted me to stop working. He didn’t want me to be in show business,”she said. In her Lifetime Intimate Portrait, Betty confirmed that she had no regrets to end her marriage for her career. “When you have a calling you have to follow it, so I made the choice, blew the marriage, and I’ve never regretted it,” she said. Betty joked to CNN in 2012 that her first two marriages were “rehearsals” because at the time “you didn’t sleep with a guy until you married him.”
Dick Barker (1945)
Betty’s first husband was Dick Barker, a chicken farmer from Ohio whom she met as a volunteer with the American Women’s Voluntary Services during World War II. “I drove a PX truck carrying toothpaste, soap, and candy to the various gun emplacement out ts that had been set up in the hills of Hollywood and Santa Monica,” she told Closer in 2017. Dick, who was a military pilot at the time, was introduced to Betty at a dance. “We would dance or play games or simply talk with the young men who were so far from home,” she said, calling her time in the war “the age of innocence.”
Betty and Dick became engaged soon after they met. After their engagement, Dick left the United States to fight in World War II as he and Betty continued their relationship long distance. Betty and Dick married when he returned to the United States 1945 after the end of the war. Their marriage only lasted for four months, however, as Betty realized that Dick’s chicken farm wasn’t for her and that she missed her family in Los Angeles, California and her career as an actor. In her interview with Closer, Betty called her relationship to Dick a “nightmare” marriage. “Oh, it was a nightmare,” Betty said, confessing hat she and Dick only had physical chemistry with each other. “I married my first because we wanted to sleep together. It lasted six months, and we were in bed for six months!”
How did Betty White die?
Betty White died on December 31, 2021. She was 99 years old. Her death, which came three weeks before her 100th birthday, was confirmed by her agent and friend, Jeff Witjas. “Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” Witjas said in a statement to People at the time. “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.”
How did Betty White die? White died in her sleep at her home in the Brentwood neighborhood of west Los Angeles at around 9:30 a.m. PT on December 31, 2021, according to TMZ. “Betty died peacefully in her sleep at her home early this morning,” Witjas told People. In an interview with People before her death, White expressed her excitement at turning 100 years old. “I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age,” she said at the time. “It’s amazing.” White also joked about her secret to a long life. “I try to avoid anything green. I think it’s working,” she said.
Witjas confirmed in an interview with People at the time of White’s death that the comedian made him a “promise” to live to 100 years old, which she almost kept. “She was an incredible lady. Hard to put into words,” he said. “We had a special relationship, far more than just a client.” He continued, “We became really good friends and we always laughed no matter what we did. She was always positive and she always saw the bright side. She promised me she would live to 100 — and she almost did.”
Witjas also told People that he and White would often joke about her 101st birthday because they were so sure she’d live to be 100. “We kidded. I said, ‘Betty, we know you’re going to turn 100. Let’s start focusing on 101.’ I mean, that’s really how we kidded around,” he said. “She never made it a big deal.” Though White never made a “big deal” about her age, Witjas did recall White telling him, “Wow, that’s a pretty large number,” when she realized how close she was to turning 100 years old. He continued, “But we didn’t sit there and say, ‘Betty, how did you do it? What did you do?'” He also told People that White would often joke about her diet.
Witjas also explained why White chose not to replace her golden retriever Pontiac who died a few years ago. “I had asked her if she wanted another animal, and she said to me she would prefer not because if she got a puppy or she went to a shelter, she’d always figured that the dog would outlive her,” he said. “And I would kid her. I said, ‘Betty, you’re outliving everybody. You’re not going anywhere.’ But she was so sensitive to animals.” As for what her life represents, Witjas said, “Her work speaks for itself. Her legacy was sealed. It was sealed years ago.”
What was Betty White’s cause of death?
What was Betty White’s cause of death? White died of natural causes and didn’t have any specific illnesses or ailments, according to TMZ. After her death, there was a rumor that White died three days after she received the booster for the COVID-19 vaccine on December 28, 2021. The rumor came from an alleged quote from White about the COVID-19 vaccine, which users shared on Twitter and Facebook after her death. “Eat healthy and get all your vaccines. I just got boosted today,” read the quote, which users would share with a link to an article by the Minnesota news outlet, Crow River Media, with the headline, “Betty White: I’m lucky to still be in good health.”
The Associate Press confirmed that the quote—which was used to connect White’s death to the COVID-19 vaccine—was fake. Witjas also told the AP that the quote isn’t real. “Betty never said this,” he said. He also confirmed that White didn’t receive the booster for the COVID-19 vaccine three days before her death and died from natural causes. “Betty died peacefully in her sleep at her home. People are saying her death was related to getting a booster shot three days earlier but that is not true,” he said. “She died of natural causes. Her death should not be politicized — that is not the life she lived.” He continued, “She never said that regarding the booster. Betty died of natural causes. She did not have the booster three days before she died.”
Though White died of natural causes, Witjas confirmed to People that White was under a doctor’s care in the final months of her life due to the pandemic. “[She] was really simply spending each day at her home. She didn’t go out. She was under a doctor’s care, not for any reason, other than just being careful with COVID,” he said. I know there was a period where she would address all the fan letters. I think, she just didn’t have the energy to respond the way she used to. She was reading, she just lived her life. She was home in her comfortable surroundings.”
Witjas also told People that he didn’t know if White fully understood how loved she was by her fans. “I don’t know if she ever embraced it, [or] really, really felt it. The extent of it. I really don’t,” he said. “I would always reinforce it with her because I always felt she should know that. I never wanted her to think while she was sitting at home, that the world has passed her by. It never did.” He continued, “Betty lived a great life and she lived a life that she chose. She was happy,” Witjas adds. “Every time I told her, ‘Betty, you’re loved,’ she would look at me with a wry smile and say, ‘Really?’ I hope she knew. I think she did. It was something beyond love.”
For more about Betty White, read her 2010 memoir, Here We Go Again: My Life in Television. The New York Times bestseller takes readers through White’s 50-plus years on television in shows Life With Elizabeth, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls. Packed with White’s trademark humor and never-before-heard stories about her Hollywood friends and her off-screen life, Here We Go Again follows White’s career from her start on radio and her first TV show, Hollywood on Television, to some of her final years of life as one of the hardest-working actresses in Hollywood ever. Here We go Again: My Life in Television is a must-read for anyone who wants to remember Betty White’s life and legacy.
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