Goodbye to a Golden Girl: A Tribute to Betty White's Incredible Life of Love and Laughter

In this week's issue, PEOPLE pays tribute to Betty White, who died peacefully in her sleep on Dec. 31, just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday

"You don't fall off the planet once you pass a given age," Betty White said on the Today show in 1991. "You don't lose any of your sense of humor. You don't lose any of your zest for life or your lust for life."

White practiced what she preached in life and became more than a television icon. She was — and is — an inspiration.

In this week's issue, PEOPLE pays tribute to White, who died peacefully in her sleep on Dec. 31, just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday — and just days after we released our previous cover story celebrating her upcoming milestone.

Betty White cover
Kwaku Alston/Corbis/Getty

Below, PEOPLE Editor in Chief Dan Wakeford explains.

We were proud to work with Betty White to produce last week's issue celebrating her 100th birthday. It was a few weeks ahead of the big day, and Betty was delightfully funny and upbeat in an email interview with our East Coast news editor Liz McNeil. "I'm so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age," she said. Her longevity secret, she joked: "I try to avoid anything green. I guess it's working."

After we went to press and our issue hit newsstands and arrived in subscribers' homes across America, Betty died at the age of 99. We are deeply saddened by the news of Betty's passing but are honored that she chose to work with PEOPLE for one of her last interviews. Many have joked that Betty, who was the queen of comic timing and had a wicked sense of humor, is no doubt smiling from above about that cover.

Betty's life — from her groundbreaking career in Hollywood to her activism on behalf of animals to her touching love story with husband Allen Ludden — has been an inspiration. Over the years she has given all of us so much joy and laughter, and in this issue we celebrate Betty's extraordinary legacy. You can never have too much Betty.

To this incredible trailblazer, we say: Thank you for being a friend.

For more of our tribute to Betty White's incredible life, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands nationwide Friday.

For more on Betty White, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

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