Estelle Getty (25 July, 1923 – 22 July, 2008) was born in New York, New York and was 47 when she made her acting debut on stage.
Her first feature film role was in Tootsie, in 1982.
She starred for 10 years as Sophia Petrillo, the wise-cracking Sicillian granny in 3 different shows (The Golden Girls, The Golden Palace and Empty Nest).
Estelle went to four auditions for the role, and was finally called back for a final audition. In preparation for her final audition she went to a make-up artist to age her and shopped in thrift shops to find the perfect outfit to fit Sophia's age.
She stayed in character the entire audition and finally convinced the casting director she was the right person for the part.
In 2000, Getty stopped making public appearances after revealing she had Parkinson's disease and osteoporosis. In 2002, media reports claimed she was also suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Doctors later discovered she actually had Lewy body dementia; both the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diagnoses were incorrect.
In 2003, Lifetime television hosted a Golden Girls reunion, but Getty did not appear due to her failing health.
On 22 July 2008, at approximately 05h30 PDT, Getty died in her Hollywood Boulevard home in Los Angeles from natural causes (according to her manager), three days before her 85th birthday.