Betty White Suffered a Stroke Days Before She Died—Here’s Her Official Cause of Death

Betty White
Photo: AP Images.

Since she passed, fans have wondered what Betty White’s cause of death was and how she died three weeks before her 100th birthday.

White—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, White’s family moved from Illinois to Alhambra, California, and later to Los Angeles, where White 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, White worked 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.

In 1952, White co-founded the production company, Bandy Productions, which produced its first TV show, Life With Elizabeth, a year later, with White playing the lead character. The show won White her first Emmy award and ran for three years. White 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, White 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 White another Emmy award.

In an interview The Chicago Sun-Times in 1990, White talked about her career and how she’d rather be remembered as a lover of animals. Throughout her life, White has worked with organizations like American Humane Association and the Fund for Animals. She also produced the talk show, The Pet Set, in which celebrities talked about their pets, in the early 1970s. In 2006, she was honored by the Los Angeles Zoo, which named which named her “ambassador to the animals” and unveiled a plaque in her honor. “Being remembered for Rose and Sue Ann and the others would be wonderful,” White told The Chicago Sun-Times at the time. “But I also want to be remembered as a lady who helped the animals.”

There’s no doubt White will always be remembered as one of the most lovable actors of the past 100 years. Read on for what Betty White’s cause of death was and how she died weeks before her 100th birthday.

How did Betty White die?

The Golden Girls

Image: Touchstone Television/courtesy Everett Collection.

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?

Betty White, "The Proposal"

Image: Kerry Hayes/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection.

What was Betty White’s cause of death? White’s cause of death is listed as a “cerebrovascular accident  on her death certificate. According to TMZ, which obtained a copy of White’s death certificate, a cerebrovascular accident is a loss of blood flow to part of the brain, resulting in brain tissue damage. TMZ also reported that White suffered a stroke six days before her death.

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.”

Witjas also 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.”

The Golden Girls is available to stream on Hulu. Here’s how to watch it for free.

"Here We Go Again" by Betty White

Image: Courtesy of Scribner.

Here We Go Again: My Life In Television by Betty White

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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