‘Golden Girls’ Icon Betty White Said Being A Stepmother To Allen Ludden’s 3 Kids ‘Turned Out Great’

Jan 23, 2023 by apost team

On Dec. 31, 2021, the world lost one of its brightest and funniest stars: Betty White. The beloved comedian was 99 years old at the time and was less than a month away from her 100th birthday. She had lived a beautiful and wonderful life, busting doors open for women all over the world and making sure to always spread light and positivity wherever she went. All in all, White was the true definition of a trailblazer.

Even though she graced the earth for 99 years, fans couldn’t help but wish they could have more time with the brilliant actress. White is best known for her work in a handful of comedic and variety shows on television, as well as a handful of feature films that showed off just how funny she truly was. Some of her most notable roles come from shows such as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland.”

White received many awards over the course of her career, including Emmy awards in multiple categories. She also won American Comedy awards, Screen Actor Guild awards and even a Grammy. In 1985 she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and even has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. White’s accomplishments in her field really can’t be understated.

However, she had always been so much more than an instantly recognizable film and television star. A devoted wife to her late husband, Allen Ludden, White was also the stepmother of his three children, David, Martha, and Sarah. Although White never had biological children of her own, she was still an incredibly wonderful stepmother to her stepchildren. 

Marrying Allen Ludden

Betty White (1955), (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The movie star was married two times before tying the knot with Allen Ludden, her third and final husband. White's first marriage in 1945 to Dick Barker, a pilot in the U.S. Army, would end in divorce just one year later. In 1947, she would go on to marry fellow actor and agent Lane Allen. This marriage would also end in divorce just two years later due to the agent pressuring White to give up her acting career.

Still, White did not give up on finding love and would go on to marry Ludden in 1963. This would be White's last marriage, and her longest one, as the couple would remain together until Ludden’s tragic passing in 1981.

While White and her first two husbands did not have any children together, White would go on to become stepmother to Ludden’s three children from a previous marriage when the two wed. As with White's first two marriages, she and Ludden would not conceive any children themselves. Regardless, White would go on to treat the three Ludden children like her own.

White and Ludden would not have gotten together at all had Ludden’s first wife and mother to his children, Margaret McGloin, not tragically passed away herself. Over the course of the couple's 18-year marriage, the two would bring David, Martha, and Sarah into the world. Still, the happy family could not have predicted McGloin's unfortunate death in 1961.

Though Ludden would marry White just two years later, their marriage would be interrupted by Ludden’s own death in 1981. 


Grateful For Her Beloved

Betty White (1975), (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

“A glib, effortless talker, Mr. Ludden, whose horn-rimmed glasses and crewcut were his trademarks for many years, combined erudition with an ability to communicate,” The New York Times described him in his obituary. Following Ludden’s battle with stomach cancer and his death, White admitted that she did not see herself getting married a fourth time, and yet she misses the companionship.

“I miss having someone to hold,” White shared with Frank Bruni of The New York Times.

“I see couples, and they’ll be sitting there and all of a sudden one will put a hand over the other’s,” White continued. “I miss that kind of personal contact.”

In another interview, she told the Daily Mail, "Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?" It seems that Ludden’s legacy will live on in White's devotion to her third husband, even after all these years after his passing.

Still, dealing with death and mourning does not come easy, especially when the person who has passed has made such a lasting impact. In regard to mourning, White said in an interview with Times Go By, "There’s no formula. Keep busy with your work and your life. You can’t become a professional mourner. It doesn’t help you or others. Keep the person in your heart all the time. Replay the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.”

In many ways, Ludden’s surviving children have been a way for White to keep his legacy alive. Speaking to People, White explained, “I married someone who had three children. And how blessed I was to have those three stepchildren.’”

Raising Stepchildren

Betty White, Allen Ludden (1974), (Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images)

Ludden and McGloin gave birth to their first child on Mar. 15, 1948. The oldest of White's three stepchildren, David, was young enough to only be a teenager when Ludden and White tied the knot. While White remains one of the most recognizable movie stars on the planet, David has gone on to live a relatively normal life. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with his Ph.D. in 1978, he would return to the same university, this time as a professor.

Teaching South Asian history as well as development studies until 2007, David would go on to become the chair of the South Asian Studies department. Additionally, the successful academic would go on to author his own book, titled “India and South Asia: A Short History.” He now teaches Asian history at a different institution, New York University. 

While David likely could have led a relatively easy life, he instead chose to work hard in the field of academia, earning the Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities Award.

Just as successful and hardworking as her brother, Martha has chosen a quiet and normal life. After receiving a law degree in 1990, Martha has chosen a career outside of the spotlight and stardom, as Martha's LinkedIn profile shows. Choosing instead to work with people who have disabilities, her quiet life reveals little else of her relationship with her famous stepmom.

Due perhaps to her young age, the youngest Ludden child has been described as having a much easier relationship with her legendary stepmother. Born in 1952, Sarah was just 9 years old when her mother, McGloin, died. Likely seeing White in a completely different way than her older sister, Sarah has been described as trying to keep the peace between White and Martha.

Family Legacies

Betty White (2015), (D Dipasupil/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

It is perhaps this close relationship with White that led Sarah to be slightly more artistically inclined than her older siblings. After working as both a dancer and an audiologist, Sarah was moved by her passion for dance, according to Moms.com. A natural progression led her from dance to an interest in karate. This being her apparent true calling, she would pursue a career in the art of karate. Little did she know, her foray into karate would set the tone for the rest of her life.

While pursuing her newfound karate passion, Sarah would meet one Nancy Lanoue. A business owner from Chicago, Lanoue would date Sarah for an extended time. Clearly devoted to one another, the couple would go on to move to Chicago permanently, as Sarah had been living in California at the time. In Chicago, the two would combine Sarah’s love of karate with Lanoue's business knowledge, opening a karate school together called Thousand Waves.

“In 1984, Nancy Lanoue and her partner Jeannette Pappas moved to Chicago with a crazy dream — to create a safe and beautiful place for women to explore their physical selves, get stronger, and feel more empowered,” Thousand Waves’ website reads. “...Pappas died in 1989, and in 1991, Sarah Ludden moved to Chicago and joined Thousand Waves, studying Seido karate and teaching a second martial art, Kajukenbo kung fu. The school had 50 women and 20 children students.”

While White's stepchildren are all grown up and accomplished in their own ways, she had to find other ways to keep herself busy after the death of her husband.

Her Prized Role

Betty White (2015), (Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

In this way, it didn’t hurt that White was an ultra-famous and beloved Hollywood star. Although tough times over the years left many people feeling more isolated than ever before, White was lucky enough to have good people by her side. She revealed that she kept busy and stayed in contact with loved ones, especially around the time she celebrated her 99th birthday.

"You probably didn't ask, but I’ll tell you anyway," White joked in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. "What am I doing for my birthday? Running a mile each morning has been curtailed by COVID, so I am working on getting “The Pet Set” re-released, and feeding the two ducks who come to visit me every day."

For those who don’t know, the “The Pet Set” is one of White’s iconic television shows. The series, which debuted in the 1970s, featured her husband at the time, Ludden, along with a whole host of animals — from dogs to gorillas.

Although White's life began with two failed marriages without children of her own, it seems like she would not have changed anything. After having fallen so deeply in love with Ludden, it seems White had chosen to love her stepchildren just as passionately. While none of them became movie stars themselves, they seem to have followed their passions, likely partly due to superstar White's support. 

A beloved superstar, no one would expect anything less than one-of-a-kind devotion from White. While White's personal life may seem tragic to some, White herself had looked for the silver linings and poured her love into her stepchildren. She once said, “It turned out great.”

Allen Ludden, Betty White (1963), ( Louis Liotta/New York Post Archives / NYP Holdings, Inc/Getty Images)

What do you think about how Betty White was devoted to her late husband and stepchildren during her life? Let us know your thoughts, and be sure to pass this along to your family and friends.

Please scroll below for more stories :-)