Betty White honored by best friend on first anniversary of TV icon’s death: ‘Betty taught us so many things’

Betty White was known around the world for her impeccable comedic timing and for her kind heart toward people and animals.

On the one-year anniversary of her death, White’s closest confidante, Patty Sullivan, exclusively told Fox News Digital she’s honoring her best friend by enjoying one of their favorite pastimes: ushering in a new year on the beach.

“At sunset on New Year’s Eve, we will remember Betty by finding a quiet place on the ocean that brings to mind the 20 years of New Years that we spent in her home in Carmel, sharing love and laughter,” Sullivan said. 

The “Golden Girls” star died Dec. 31, 2021. She was 99. 

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Legendary television star Betty White is honored by her best friend on the first anniversary of her death.

Legendary television star Betty White is honored by her best friend on the first anniversary of her death.
(Vincent Sandoval)

“I will forever miss those walks on the beach, picking up sea glass and taking in all the beauty that our senses could share,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan, White’s “surrogate” daughter, recalled fond memories of her friend of 53 years. They met in the late ‘60s in Cape Cod while Sullivan’s husband, Tom, was beginning his music career and performing at a local restaurant. Betty and her husband, Allen Ludden, “instantly fell in love” with Tom’s shows.

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“Betty taught us so many things, but her greatest pearl was the lessons we learned watching her accept the inevitable changes that are part of all of our lives,” she said. 

Through her final years of life, Sullivan began chronicling her memories and decades-long friendship with White and published her new book, “Betty White’s Pearls of Wisdom: Life Lessons from a Beloved American Treasure.” 

Sullivan hopes readers learn just how much White cared about the world, all its inhabitants, and the health of the planet in general. 

Betty White met Patty Sullivan in the late '60s

Betty White met Patty Sullivan in the late ’60s
(Patty Sullivan)

She explained White “never got involved in politics, but her love of this planet and her respect for it was so broad and so deep within her,” citing the time a joyful White was able to see “a lost baby sea otter” being “introduced to a surrogate mom” at the Monterey Aquarium.

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“She could see the otters from her window in front of [her] house, and to see the loss of population over time, it just really disturbed her,” Sullivan explained. “So when she put money and effort and time and concern into saving the sea otter, that was huge. And I got that moment with her — to see on her face, ‘Oh, my gosh, look what I was able to help others achieve.’

“I think that’s a bigger picture. We always see her promoting, take care of your animals, speak to them, they’ll speak to you kind of thing. But to realize the vast amount of work she was doing … that was her first love, by the way. Show business gave her the privilege to support and [fund it].”

White “adored acting from the get go” and felt as though “every role that she went up for was meaningful to her.” 

Betty White became chosen family for Patty Sullivan and her husband, Tom.

Betty White became chosen family for Patty Sullivan and her husband, Tom.
(Patty Sullivan)

"The Golden Girls" is one of only three sitcoms in which all the main actors won at least one Emmy Award. Rue McClanahan, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, 1987; Estelle Getty, outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, 1988; Bea Arthur, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, 1988; and Betty White, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, 1986.

“The Golden Girls” is one of only three sitcoms in which all the main actors won at least one Emmy Award. Rue McClanahan, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, 1987; Estelle Getty, outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, 1988; Bea Arthur, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, 1988; and Betty White, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, 1986.
(ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content)

Of course, “Golden Girls” stood the test of time, something Sullivan said White always knew would happen.

“When those reruns happen every night of the week, I have grandchildren of my friends say, ‘I love Betty White, I want her to be my grandma.’ And that show is timeless,” she said. 

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“You think about the other stuff that she did, the delicious moments with David E. Kelley shows and … her wonderful Snickers commercial when she’s falling in the mud, and she has some words to say. I mean, she was amazing. She loved every minute of it.”

The award-winning actress died “peacefully in her sleep” at her Brentwood home, her representative confirmed at the time. White’s immediate cause of death was listed as a “cerebrovascular accident” on her death certificate, the medical term for a stroke.

White was an active supporter of a number of animal organizations and zoos.

White was an active supporter of a number of animal organizations and zoos.
(Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

“She was a light to the last moments of her public life,” Sullivan said. “I knew what she was feeling physically. I knew that she was struggling with her physical ability to get around. And, as I say in the book, she never allowed a wheelchair. She never sat in one.

“She had a walker toward the end, but she always had a handsome young guy to escort her everywhere.”

One day before her death, White shared a statement with Fox News Digital via her publicist about the secret to her long-lasting happiness.

“I’ve always been a cockeyed optimist,” White said. “I got it from my mom. I’m gonna stick with it.”

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Fox News Digital’s Lori Bashian contributed to this report.

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