Betty White, who is now the last surviving lead actress of the hit show "Golden Girls," issued a statement just hours after co-star [article id="1640664"]Rue McClanahan's death[/article] on Thursday.
"Rue was a close and dear friend. I treasure our relationship," White, 88, said in a statement, according to People.com. "It hurts more than I ever thought it would, if that's even possible."
McClanahan died early Thursday at age 76 after suffering a stroke; co-star Bea Arthur died of cancer last year and Estelle Getty passed away in 2008.
McClanahan had suffered a minor stroke earlier this year while recovering from triple bypass surgery. McClanahan's rep told the magazine that at the time of her death Thursday, McClanahan "had her family with her. She went in peace."
McClanahan was born on February 21, 1934, in Healdton, Oklahoma. After majoring in theater at the University of Tulsa, began her career as an actress in the mid-1950s, appearing in off-Broadway productions in New York. She made her Broadway debut in 1969, in the role of Sally Weber in the musical "Jimmy Shine," and soon moved from the stage to daytime with a role on the soap opera "Another World" in 1970. It wasn't until landing the part of Vivian Harmon in TV's "Maude" (which starred a pre-"Golden Girls" Bea Arthur), however, that she would achieve the notoriety that led to landing her famous role on "Golden Girls."
In recent years, McClanahan had appeared on TV shows "Meet the Browns," "Law & Order" and "Sordid Lives: The Series."