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This Week in Illinois History: Betty White born in Oak Park (January 17, 1922)

<em></em>The always trendy actress Betty White is set to join the 90 club in January.
Matt Sayles

One hundred years ago today, Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois. Her family moved to California one year later, but White always had fond memories of visiting relatives in the Chicago suburb.

White’s family moved to LA during the Great Depression. She discovered her love of writing and acting in high school. After graduating in 1939, she found work singing and modeling until World War II broke out and she signed up for the American Women’s Voluntary Services. After the war, she appeared in several popular radio shows before starring in “The Betty White Show.”

1949 marked White’s television debut. She starred on and eventually hosted the variety show “Hollywood on Television.” In 1952 she formed her own production company and became the first woman to produce a sitcom with her hit comedy series “Life with Elizabeth.”

White’s quick wit and bawdy humor made her a popular guest on sitcoms, game shows and talk shows. She skillfully re-introduced herself to new generations through iconic TV characters Sue Anne Nivens on the “Mary Tyler Moore show,” Rose Nylund on “Golden Girls” and Elka Ostrovsky on “Hot in Cleveland.” In 2010, at 88 years old, she became the oldest person ever to host Saturday Night Live.

White credited her longevity to Vodka, hotdogs and her love of animals.

White passed away on December 31, 2021. Today, on what would have been her 100th birthday, Oak Park celebrates its first annual Betty White Day. And the Betty White Challenge on social media is encouraging fans to donate to animal shelters in Betty White’s name.

Betty White, thank you for being a friend.

Clint Cargile is the host of This Week in Illinois History and the creator and host of the podcast Drinkin’ with Lincoln.
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