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Oak Park To Celebrate Betty White Day To Honor Legacy Of Late TV Star; 'We Need To Celebrate Betty'

OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- America's Golden Girl died just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday, but Betty White's hometown of Oak Park is keeping their big centennial birthday bash as a tribute to the life she lived.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Marissa Parra got an inside look at the people making it happen, and how Betty White touched neighbors she never knew.

"She is a claim to fame for our community, for sure, but I think that the love of Betty White is broader than that. It's a national affection that the people of this country have for her," said Melissa Elsmo, an Oak Park writer and Betty White fan.

It's a deep love shared by people who never met her.

"I've always had this connection. She was born at the hospital where my three children were born. So, I felt like ... I mean, everyone wants to be like Betty," said Lourdes Nicholls, who organized Oak Park's celebration of White's 100th birthday, now turned into a memorial for the late TV star.

Her talent, her humor, and her humility made Oak Park proud.

"She's one more feather in our cap," Elsmo said.

Last year, as their hometown hero rang in her 99th birthday, Nicholls was already planning White's 100th birthday festivities in Oak Park: a full day of all things Betty White.

"My heart sank when I found out that Betty passed away. It felt like a dagger in my heart, honestly. It felt like, 'What do we do?' We were planning this birthday party," she said.

Nicholls' plans for a birthday party, complete with showings of Betty White's best hits, turned into plans for a memorial fit for a Golden Girl.

"We're pivoting, and we're ready to celebrate," she said. "We need to celebrate Betty."

For the woman who felt like everyone's friend, even 99 years and 11 months of Betty White was not enough.

"That time was just too darn short, and I think that's the greatest compliment of a life well-lived," Elsmo said.

Oak Park businesses will be hosting their own Betty White specials on Jan. 15. She would have turned 100 on Jan. 17, but the celebration will be two days earlier, so as not to overshadow Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17.

There will even be a performance by the woman who sang the iconic Golden Girls theme song, "Thank You for Being a Friend."

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