Betty White celebrated her 90th birthday this past week on January 17th and it occurred to me that I have been watching her on TV for 25 years! While perhaps known best for being one of the Golden Girls and for her roles on other TV sitcoms such as Mary Tyler Moore and Hot in Cleveland, Betty White has also been and continues to be an avid animal activist and wilderness enthusiast.
Betty White Advocates for Protecting Wilderness, Calls King Canyon National Park Her "Soul Place"
The Wilderness Society launched a marketing series this month, called “my wilderness” which featured Betty White. In the video ad, Betty describes her love for the outdoors which began for her when she was four-years old. That was 1926, when Calvin Coolidge was President of the U.S. and Betty’s parents, she lovingly referred to them as “nature nuts” took a wide-eyed Betty for a summer vacation to the High Sierras.
For Betty, the Rae Lakes area in Kings Canyon National Park, was “as close to heaven” as one gets on earth. Walking along the mountaintop paths, she felt like she was on top of the world. Her family would camp on these mountain lakes for 3 weeks straight. Betty’s reminiscing reminded me of my own childhood natural inspirations, first when I was five years old and my mom took me to see the grunion run along the beach at Cabrillo Marine Museum in San Pedro and later in my teens when my family took trips to see the wildflowers blooming in Yosemite.
Betty White Also Loves Animals, She Had A TV Show About Pets and Now Has A Book About Her Zoo Friends
In addition to her love for the outdoors, Betty also has a tremendous passion for animals. She told TVGuide.com in 2008, "I have to stay in show business to pay for my animal work.” Her love for animals also began when she was a youngster. Her father used to go for walks and would come home with a stray cat or dog that the family would adopt during the depression of the 1930s. During the 1970’s, she hosted a TV show called The Pet Set, which showcased celebrities and their pets.
Betty has received awards for her work protecting wild places and animal welfare. The American Veterinary Medical Association awarded White with a Humane Award in 1987. White is the president emeritus of the Morris Animal Foundation, where she has served as a trustee of the organization since the 1970’s. She also has been a member of the board of directors of the Greater LA Zoo Association and has been active with the zoo for over 50 years. In 2006, the City of Los Angeles honored her for work with animals with a bronze plaque near the Gorillas at the Los Angeles Zoo.
Even the Animal Liberation Front has deemed Betty a saint. This fall Betty was on the Daily Show, where she spoke passionately with Jon Stewart, not about her TV shows, but about her love of animals and her new book Betty and Friends: My Life at the Zoo.
Some of us dream about being actresses, but Betty White dreamed about being a forest ranger. In 2010, at 88 years old, in addition to getting her own 2011 calendar, Betty’s childhood dream was finally fulfilled when the U.S. Forest Service along with Smokey the Bear made actress Betty White an honorary forest ranger.
So let’s join President Obama, Beethoven the whale and others this week in wishing Betty a happy birthday. If we all had her impeccable comic timing, sense of humor and activism as septuagenarians, the world would be a better place.