Estelle Getty was an American actress/comedian, best known for portraying the role of Sophia Petrillo in the television series The Golden Girls and its spin-off The Golden Palace. She had also earned notable attention from the viewers for reprising the role on the NBC sitcom, Empty Nest.

Estelle Getty early life

Estelle Getty was born on 25 July 1923, in New York City, NY. She was born Estelle Scher to Sarah and Charles Scher, Polish Jewish immigrants. Her father was involved in the glass business and owned a glass store as well.

Getty grew up in her hometown along with brother, David, and sister, Roslyn. She studied at the Seward Park High School.

Estelle Getty portrayed Sophia Petrillo for ten years

She performed minor roles in a few television series and movies throughout the early 80s before landing her career’s most important role as Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls in 1985. She portrayed the mother of Dorothy Zbornak [portrayed by Beatrice “Bea” Arthur] in the series, when in fact, Arthur was fifteen and a half month elder than Getty.

Getty’s role on The Golden Girls ended in 1992 with the end of the series, but she continued to reprise the role in The Golden Palace right afterwards. Prior to this, she had also appeared in the same role on the series The Earth Day Special and Blossom.

From left to right - Estelle Getty, Beatrice Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan. All of them are wearing golden dresses.

After The Golden Palace ended in 1993, Getty went on to reprise the role in Empty Nest [1988 – 1995]. In between, she had appeared as Sophia in an episode of Nurses as well.

Getty received a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award and an American Comedy Award for her performance in The Golden Girls. She might have accumulated an enormous net worth as well, but details of her earnings have not been revealed.

Estelle Getty retired after revealing health issues

Getty was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the mid-90s. A few years later, she was once again misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, following which she discontinued making public appearances. Finally, in the early 2000s, she was correctly diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.

As revealed by the Golden Girls cast members, Getty could not remember them or anything related to the show when they tried to talk to her through the phone. She did not even attend the Golden Girls reunion, The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments.

Estelle Getty died just shy of her 85th birthday

Getty’s health was deteriorating of Dementia with Lewy Bodies day by day, and on 22 July 2008, she died of it. 

Getty passed away just three days before her 85th birthday. Her body is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, LA. She is survived by her sons Carl Gettleman and Barry Gettleman. Her husband, Arthur Gettleman, had died four years before her.