BELLE CENTER, Ohio (WCMH/WJW) — As the world celebrates Betty White on what would have been her 100th birthday Monday, many in Ohio are remembering the actress’ short time here.
For White, it wasn’t all that enjoyable.
In a The Daily Beast article, White said her road to Ohio all started when she met a P-38 pilot, Capt. Richard Barker, of Belle Center, during World War II.
White called him “Dick,” but Barker was known around Belle Center — about 65 miles northwest of Columbus in Logan County — as Bud. She said the circumstances were “terribly romantic.”
A volunteer with the Logan Historical Society did find a marriage record that said Frederick R. Barker married a Betty M. on July 9, 1945.
The marriage soon went downhill. The couple planned to live in an apartment in Santa Maria, White told The Daily Beast, but Barker neglected to tell her he’d been discharged.
That’s when she learned the airman was just a country boy with a chicken farm and a pet raccoon. They drove to Belle Center to live with his parents on that farm.
White is known for her love of animals. And they did have a role in her time in Belle Center.
Judy Snyder, a volunteer with the Logan Historical Society, said her husband was a child when he met White and Barker.
“Bud had brought along his pet raccoon, and it relieved itself on Betty’s shoulder during the visit,” Snyder said.
A wedding announcement showed White was taking poultry classes at Ohio State University in Columbus with Barker.
The couple’s marriage didn’t last long, though, after Barker’s family tried to send her to kill a chicken for dinner.
“I said, ‘No way!’” White wrote in the 2011 article. “That was a real trauma because I’m such an animal nut. I couldn’t hack it, so I split and came back to California. We were married eight months, and it was a very bad mistake early on.”
It’s likely the Barkers never owned the farm that White talks about in her memoirs but rented it.
“One of our volunteers used to visit with (Dick) at the diner, but she can’t recall ever knowing where the chicken farm was, but she is asking some of the old-timers around Belle Center,” Marshall said in an email to NBC4’s Cynthia Rosi.
White soon left for her glamorous life.
The eventual comedy legend died peacefully at home on Dec. 31, 2021, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday.