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Betty White, Beloved Actress And Oak Park Native, Dies At 99

OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- The year 2021 has ended with a great loss as beloved icon and actress Betty White died Friday – just three weeks shy of her 100th birthday.

White, an Oak Park native, had the longest-running career in television history as a woman. CBS 2's Shardaa Gray did some digging and found the apartment where White lived as a baby nearly a century ago.

Her family did not stay in the apartment long, but her roots in Oak Park stand strong.

White was born in 1922, and had starred in shows since 1939. She went to Beverly Hills High School.

White played clueless Rose Nylund on the hit show "The Golden Girls" from 1985 until 1992. She was praised for her role as the lustful Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Betty White told CBS News she spent her 99th birthday in January with two special feathered friends.

"What am I doing for my birthday?" White asked at the time. "Running a mile each morning has been curtailed by COVID, so I am working on getting 'The Pet Set' rereleased, and feeding the two ducks who come to visit me every day."

"Betty White's Pet Set" was a weekly show she created and hosted in 1971, which is making its debut on digital platforms and DVD, on February 23 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, a December press release from MPI Media Group said.

The program spotlighted, "her lifelong devotion to animals, and the people who love them," according to the release.

White invited her fellow famous friends with their dogs, cats, birds, and even horses on the program. The show also featured appearances from wild animals, including bears, elephants, eagles, and more, according to the release. Icons including Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, Rod Serling, and others appeared on the syndicated show.

White also played outspoken caretaker on "Hot In Cleveland." She also drew laughs in the 2009 comedy "The Proposal" and the horror spoof "Lake Placid."

By popular demand, she hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 2011. White once said her character Sue Ann Nivens in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" could be "icky-sweet" but was "really a piranha type." That role brought her two Emmys.

White influenced many, including Konrad Juengling.

"I think she has made amazing strides for women in comedy," Juengling told CBS 2's Shardaa Gray.

White inspired Juengling to the point where he wanted to make a day dedicated to White – Jan. 17, which is her birthday.

"I would love if the state lets have her own day, with a state proclamation, but I wanted to start in her hometown and where she was born - Oak Park," Juengling said.

Juengling started a petition on this year. It out with just a few hundred signatures and is now peaking near 3,500 signatures, in hopes of reaching his goal of 5,000.

"It's picking up steam again, and maybe it's something they could be interested doing this time around," Juengling said. "It would definitely be a great way to honor her."

Juengling said he will keep the petition open as long as it takes to honor White. If the Village of Oak Park declines, he will shut it down.

We also talked to the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, where they say White wrote them a letter saying she wants people to know she is from Oak Park – not Chicago.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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