Former M*A*S*H star Kellye Nakahara died on Monday, February 17, as reported by TMZ. She was 72. Nakahara is survived by her husband David Wallett, their two children, Nalani and William, and four grandchildren.
Born in Oahu, Hawaii, she went on to star in nearly 200 episodes of the hit show, M*A*S*H, as Lieutenant Nurse Kellye Yamato from 1973 to 1983. Her cause of death stemmed from a battle with peritoneal cancer, which according to WebMD, is a rare form that develops in the abdomen’s thin tissue layers. However, her family reported to TMZ that she passed away peacefully.
The half Asian, half Hawaiin actress relocated to San Francisco after graduating high school. After meeting and marrying her husband David Wallett in 1968, the couple moved to Los Angeles where he encouraged her to try her hand at acting.
Here’s what you need to know about Kellye Nakahara:
1. Nakahara’s Original Role On ‘M*A*S*H’ Was A Non-Speaking Extra
When Nakahara first booked a part on M*A*S*H, he role was “Nurse #1” and it was her first professional gig as an actor. However, as Nakahara described in an interview with NPR, she charmed her way into becoming a series regular.
“I just was so thrilled to be on that set. I loved the smell of the tents. I loved the people. So I would have a great time with the writers and talk to them and the crew, who I loved. And really, we became such great friends that I think I was in every scene because I put myself in every scene… And nobody told me to get out!”
Nakahara explained, “One of the scenes is me tap dancing, and it was really hilarious because I would think I was tap dancing and trying to practice tap dancing – which was awful – in my boots all the time while waiting for a scene to start. And all of the things that I really was off-screen, they put into my character. You know, a very, very competent person who was positive and upbeat and sweet.”
2. Nakahara Formed Genuine Close Friends With Her ‘M*A*S*H’ Co-Stars
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 Nakahara described what it was like working on Stage at the 20th Century Fox lot. She humbly recalled becoming friends with the show’s cast and crew helped made her role a permanent character on one of the most successful TV series of all time.
“Gene [Reynolds] and Alan [Alda] liked me,” Nakahara said. “All of a sudden, I was being written in as Nurse 123 and then Nurse Able, Baker and Charlie. At some point, Alan said he couldn’t keep calling me ‘Nurse 1.’ ‘You’re Kellye. Nurse Kellye.'”
She told NPR, “Then, after the show was over, we had potlucks at my house. And I thought, This is really hilarious. Here in Pasadena, down this little old street with craftsman houses, and I said, there comes Alan Alda with his pasta salad. This is hilarious.”
Nakahara was also proud of how progressive the series was with diversity. “I was the first Asian who didn’t play one. I was just an American soldier, a nurse on the same level as everyone else. My true ethnicity never even came up.”
3. Husband David Wallett Previously Announced Nakahara’s Peritoneal Cancer Was In Remission
While Nakahara was ill, Wallett updated friends and family with her health progress on her official website. He wrote, “Kelly had Peritoneal cancer & fought like a warrior! SHE IS NOW IN REMISSION.”
However, on September 1, 2018, a less joyful update was shared on the website. “Kellye has been struggling after her 2nd Chemo with additional side effects. Your emails, cards and good wishes has been great on keeping her spirit up! Thank you!
4. Nakahara Appeared In Films Such As ‘Clue’ and ‘Doctor Dolittle’
After M*A*S*H ended, Nakahara continued to enjoy success in both TV and film. She guest-starred on numerous series such as Matt Houston, Otherworld, Growing Pains, Dream On, and NYPD Blue.
On the big screen, she played The Cook in 1985’s Clue, Beagle Woman in 1998’s Doctor Dolittle and Nurse Hino in the 1994 family comedy, 3 Ninjas Kick Back.
5. Under The Name, Kellye Wallett, She Was A Succesful Watercolor Artist
According to her IMDB profile, Nakahara’s last acting role was in 2000, where she voiced the role of Yak in the animated series, The Wild Thornberrys. After retiring from the industry, with business partner Wendy Anderson, Nakahara created the Kellye Wallet Studio. Kellye’s collection “The Gardens of Pasadena”, featured historical landmarks, gardens and neighborhoods in Pasadena.
On her website through Wow Productions, she stated that her first love was painting, and pieces of her art are featured on the studio’s Facebook page. Her painting “Koi” was selected by Senator Jack Scott in 2001 to represent his district where it was on exhibit at the State Capitol. Kellye was also commissioned to paint the Maguire Gardens at the Central Library, which were made into invitations and lithographs for the New Jersey reception during the Democratic National Convention.