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Fans honor Betty White in her native Oak Park: ‘If she could’ve lived to 200, we would’ve preferred that’

Over a hundred fans remembered the actress and comedian outside Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre in Oak Park Saturday morning.

John Kettman holds a painting of Betty White that he created during a “Betty White Centennial Celebration” to honor White outside Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre in Oak Park, Ill, which is White’s hometown, Saturday morning, Jan. 15, 2022. The actress and comedian, who passed away on December 31, 2021, would have been 100 years old on January 17, 2022. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
John Kettman holds a painting of Betty White that he created during a “Betty White Centennial Celebration” to honor White outside Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre in Oak Park, Ill, which is White’s hometown, Saturday morning, Jan. 15, 2022. The actress and comedian, who passed away on December 31, 2021, would have been 100 years old on January 17, 2022. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times, Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Fans hugged Betty White cutouts. Others ate cake as they lowered masks adorned with White’s picture. An Oak Park resident waved a giant photo taped to a broom. Another held up a framed painting of her as the crowd sang along to the Golden Girls theme song, “Thank You For Being a Friend.”

Over a hundred people remembered the actress and comedian outside Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre Saturday morning in the west suburb, where White was born in 1922. Although White was a few days short of 100 when she passed on December 31, 2021, Growing Community Media, which originally planned to celebrate White’s centennial birthday, held a “Betty White Centennial Celebration” to honor her legacy.

“She’s just someone that makes everybody smile,” said Oak Park resident John Kettman, who brought a painting he made of White, as people gathered around him, cooing over his work. “And with the way times are with COVID, everything’s all divided. Everybody’s getting sick and dying and it’s just dividing our country. And to see someone like her pass, that made everybody smile, it’s too bad she couldn’t have that 100 years.”

People take pictures as John Kettman holds a painting of Betty White that he created during a “Betty White Centennial Celebration” to honor White outside Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre in Oak Park, Ill, which is White’s hometown, Saturday morning, Jan. 15, 2022. The actress and comedian, who passed away on December 31, 2021, would have been 100 years old on January 17, 2022.
People take pictures as John Kettman holds a painting of Betty White that he created during a “Betty White Centennial Celebration” to honor White outside Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre in Oak Park, Ill, which is White’s hometown, Saturday morning, Jan. 15, 2022. The actress and comedian, who passed away on December 31, 2021, would have been 100 years old on January 17, 2022.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

White wasn’t just known for making people laugh. Since White loved animals, organizers set up an Animal Care League pet adoption pop-up across the street.

Denise Shanks came to the event with the intention of commemorating White. She left with a newly adopted puppy.

“I felt [adopting a dog] was a great way to honor her and her legacy,” Shanks said. “She had a good life, but, you know, you never like to see people like her go. If she could’ve lived to 200, we would’ve preferred that, right?”