MUNCIE, Ind. — She transcended generations with her comedic timing and sometimes risqué wit - beloved actress Betty White, who came to be known as the "First Lady of Television" and for several memorable roles on it, including Rose on "The Golden Girls."
"Along each generation, people loved her," said 41-year-old Lynde Bratton, who was just 6 years old when she became a Betty White fan. "The Golden Girls, we watched that as a family and I just fell in love with her and just...I just thought she was, like, the sweetest soul ever."
So in 1986, when Bratton, at 6, was set to visit California to compete in a national junior miss pageant, she wrote White a letter to tell her the dates she was coming to town, where she was staying and that she wanted to meet her.
"I was just adamant that I was going to meet her," Bratton explained. "My mom and dad, they tried to explain to me it doesn’t happen that way, you don’t just go to California and meet somebody."
But in Bratton’s case, you do.
On her second day in California, she got a message at her hotel to call White’s assistant.
"She was like, ‘She got this letter from this little girl, and she wants to meet her and she’s doing a book signing and wants her to come,’" Bratton said White’s assistant told the girl's mother.
"Betty’s assistant had told us at the time that my letter had accidentally got put into her personal priority mail and so that’s how she saw the letter," she said.
The next day, a Rolls-Royce was sent to pick up Bratton and her mom at their hotel.
"Out comes this driver and opens the door for us. My mom just kept saying there was a TV in the car," Bratton said, laughing.
When Bratton got to the book signing, she said White was doing a television interview, but stopped everything to spend time with her.
"She just grabbed me and hugged me, and I mean she spent probably a half hour with me, just talking and she wanted no interruptions and we just talked about everything," said Bratton, including golden retrievers, which both White and Bratton owned at the time.
These days, Bratton said she can’t tell you what she ate for dinner yesterday, but all these years later, she can still recall those 30 minutes she spent with Betty White. The memories have never faded.
"It was truly like she was meeting me, and she made us feel like we were the celebrities coming to her," Bratton explained, saying when she learned of White’s passing last week, the now schoolteacher and mother of three, shed a few tears.
She also recalled that unforgettable day and how Betty White took the time to make a 6-year-old little girl from Muncie feel like she could do and be anything she wanted.
"It was magical, and she talked about 'Don’t ever stop reaching for your dreams,'" said Bratton. "We need to all be a little more like Betty."