Dolly Parton Mourns Betty White: ‘I Will Always Love Her’

by Jennifer Shea
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Country superstar Dolly Parton is a Betty White fan, and with good reason. White was a comedienne par excellence and a TV icon who kept working well into her golden years and outlasted many of her younger colleagues.

So naturally, Parton was deeply saddened to learn of White’s passing yesterday. And when she took to Twitter on New Year’s Day, her first thought was of White.

“While watching the news last night I learned of Betty White’s passing,” Parton tweeted. “Betty will live forever not only in this world but the world here after. I will always love her as we all will!”

Betty White Died Peacefully in Her Sleep

White passed away early Friday morning of what appears to be natural causes. Law enforcement officials told Us Weekly that Los Angeles Police Department officers arrived at White’s home at 9:37 a.m. Pacific Time to find the actress deceased.

“It appears to be natural cause of death with no evidence of foul play,” an LAPD official told the magazine.

Two days earlier, the TV icon had told an interviewer that she was “amazed” at the prospect of turning 100. White’s birthday is Jan. 17.

“No, seriously, I’m the luckiest broad on two feet to be as healthy as I am and to feel as good as I do!” White said.

The same week, White had told People that she owed her longevity to her sunny outlook. She said she was “born a cockeyed optimist” and she “got it from my mom, and that never changed. I always find the positive.”

“I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age. It’s amazing,” she added.

White’s agent and good friend Jeff Witjas released a statement confirming her death on Friday.

“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” Witjas said. “I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don’t think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.”

Dolly Parton Wrote ‘I Will Always Love You’ for Porter Wagoner

Meanwhile, Parton is probably humming her classic “I Will Always Love You” in Betty White’s honor today. But the song was originally written for Porter Wagoner, Parton’s collaborator on The Porter Wagoner Show from 1967 to 1972, according to Parton herself.

“We used to fight like cats and dogs,” Parton recalled in a 2009 intro to her performance of the song. “Cause we were both stubborn. But anyhow, I told him I wanted to go out on my own. So he was just havin’ a fit about it, and we argued a lot, and I thought, ‘He’s never gonna listen to me. He’s not hearin’ a word I’m saying.’ So why don’t you just go home, do what you do best, write a song.”

“So I went home, wrote a song about it,” Parton went on. “Came back the next day, and I said, ‘Porter, just sit down. Let me sing you something. Then you’ll know how I feel.’”

Parton told him she would always love him, and in fact, that was what she titled the song. But it could just as easily apply to Betty White today, because Dolly Parton, like generations of TV viewers, will always love the sly, bawdy comedienne.

Watch Parton singing “I Will Always Love You” here: