Kellye Nakahara, the actress best known as proud and capable Nurse Kellye on M*A*S*H, has died. She was 72.
Nakahara’s family announced the news on the Facebook page for an art studio they shared. Her daughter, Nalani Coleman, also confirmed the news on her own Facebook page, writing, “My mom was my best friend. We talked or saw each other every day. We laughed and giggled and always had the best time together. She was so genuinely funny and kind and people were drawn to her. I still want to be her when I grow up. She passed on 2/16. We are all devastated and will miss her more than can be known.”
Best known for her role on TV comedy M*A*S*H, Nakahara pursued a career in art before turning to acting. Though her role on the long-running sitcom was her most significant work, she also played several other guest roles and bit parts in television. She portrayed the cook Mrs. Ho in 1985’s madcap comedy Clue, as well as featuring in 1988’s She’s Having a Baby and 1996’s Black Day Blue Night.
Nakahara continued to act, but she also pursued a career as a watercolor artist, painting and exhibiting under her married name Kellye Wallett.
She was born in 1947 in O’ahu, Hawaii. As a young woman, she moved to San Francisco to pursue an art career and sold watercolors at the Polk Gallery. Eventually, she relocated to Los Angeles with her husband David Wallett.
When she was cast as Nurse Kellye, it was a bit part, a background character with few speaking lines, but the role grew in prominence each season. Nakahara was one of the few cast members to appear in every episode of the 11-year series. After her success on television, she traveled the country as a spokesperson for IBM with several of her fellow castmates.
Her art, featuring landmarks and neighborhoods of her adopted hometown of Pasadena, Calif., are on indefinite loan to the city and are currently exhibited at the Pasadena Police Department Headquarters and City Hall. She also was commissioned to paint a Christmas ornament for the Official White House Christmas Tree in 2008.