R.I.P. Kellye Nakahara, who played Nurse Kellye on 10 seasons of M*A*S*H

She appeared in more than 150 episodes of the classic Korean War sitcom.

Image: The Everett Collection

Of all of M*A*S*H's many nurses, from head nurse Margaret Houlihan to Hawkeye's original sweetie Lt. Dish, Nurse Kellye arguably brought the most sunshine. Played by Kellye Nakahara in her first-ever acting role, Nurse Kellye appeared in 167 episodes, just 10 shy of Gary Burghoff's Radar.

Nakahara was from Hawaii, but as a young artist, she’d recently moved to San Francisco. That’s where she met her husband, David Wallett, who swept her away to Los Angeles and encouraged her to try acting. Soon, she landed a bit part on M*A*S*H as "Nurse #1."

Nakahara was initially in a minor role, as it was her first experience as a hired actor. She made her uncredited debut in the season-two episode "Divided We Stand."

She worked out her nerves on set by doing silly things like tap-dancing to shake them out. The crew noticed her antsy antics and the next thing she knew, Nakahara told NPR in 2016, the character started being shaped to be more and more like her authentic self: "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."

Beyond fleshing out her onscreen persona, Nakahara also sparked friendships that ensured Nurse Kellye stuck around.

She told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018, "Gene [Reynolds] and Alan [Alda] liked me. 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.'"

Nurse Kellye did not remain such a minor presence.

There's "Hey, Look Me Over," where she's the episode star, challenging Hawkeye on his superficial views and sharing two memorable dances with Alan Alda. In "Mail Call, Again," she draws a laugh in a close-up shot, puffing on a cigar to celebrate the birth of Harry Morgan’s character Potter’s granddaughter. She’d share an even more significant scene with Morgan again when it came time to shoot the show’s final episode. For "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," a scene was famously added to the episode in which an overnight bombing sparks a wildfire in the forest surrounding the camp, forcing an evacuation.

Nakahara told The Hollywood Reporter, "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."

Following M*A*S*H, Nakahara-Wallett made sporadic guest appearances on series such as NYPD Blue and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch but largely pursued her painting. 

It was her Kellye Wallett Studio Facebook page that broke the news that Kellye passed away on February 16.

"Yesterday we lost one of the most beautiful souls on earth. We will miss you so much Kellye!" they posted on Monday, February 17. TMZ confirmed the news.

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RedSamRackham 28 days ago
I wanted Kellye to replace Roseanne on the Connors! ☺
sandman 5 months ago
RIP Kellye. Thanks to MASH reruns on MeTV, Sundance or TVLand you will live forever
Bebesbabes03 6 months ago
I was so sorry to hear of her passing. Although she never had a starring role, I just loved her. Rest In Peace, sweet Kelly’s.
jacko3 6 months ago
Kellye Nakahara, May GOD Bless You ....
Frpaulhall 7 months ago
Rip she will be in our prayers and our hearts.
Mirramanee 7 months ago
For me, the most memorable scene I remember Kellye in was in the same episode ("Hey, Look Me Over") where she gives Hawkeye a good schooling on what a great person she was. She was the night nurse in charge of the post-op patients and there was this one patient who was delirious and in his final moments of life. He was calling out for someone (wife? girlfriend?) and Nurse Kellye came over and held his hand and tenderly reassured him she was that girl he was calling out for. She made his final moments just a little bit better and she did it in the most heartfelt and believable manner that it still brings tears to my eyes when I see it. All that time, Hawkeye is watching her (unbeknownst to her) from somewhere nearby and realizing how much depth and kindness and compassion there is to her. He realizes how blithely he had dismissed her till then. THAT is the greatest Nurse Kellye scene for me. RIP Kellye. I only hope that someone was there tenderly holding your hand for you as you moved on to the next world.
Lacey 7 months ago
I am very sorry to hear this.
I always liked her in everything she showed up in.
Thank you for the post METV.
Christine 7 months ago
I have been a long time mash fan and always liked Kelly Nakahara. I was surprised to hear of her passing. I found out about her passing early a couple a 3 days ago listening to Wbbm 780 Chicago Illinois.
HopeDuchaine 7 months ago
This is so sad. I loved her character on MASH. My thoughts and prayers to her family.
JohnWilliamson 7 months ago
Nakahara said, "My true ethnicity never even came up."

Actually, she sort of brought it up in the episode when she asked Hawkeye to put "rigatoni" into terms that her ethnicity could understand, so he said "egg roll" which she understood.

It's in the video up top.
Now, I need to borrow the entire series from our local library (SCLENDS). I know they have it, because I donated it. I need to watch them all again, and catch the sections I missed while watching it several times on MeTV.
msdemos JohnWilliamson 7 months ago
.

WEIRD!! After buying all the individual seasons on dvd, I did the same exact thing (donated them to our library) after then buying the complete series specifically to get the "extras" specific to that set....

.
Evelyn 7 months ago
RIP Kelle Nakahara!! Loved you on MASH! You will truly be missed!
Suzanne 7 months ago
A beautiful lady - both inside and out. She made us smile, laugh, and recognize who we really are. She will be dearly missed.
RIP Kellye, we are better for having known you.
james 7 months ago
She was a great part of the show . sorry to here she's left us .
LargeActor 7 months ago
(Yes) "Nakahara" Was Hard At Work , Just A Brilliant Actress Who Wanted To Achieve "Success" And Finally Did.!!! When She Won The Hearts Over Her Peers And Audiences World -Wide.!! She'll Never Be Forgotten, What A Special Lady.!!! {AMEN}
KennethGrueschow 7 months ago
she definitely was as cute as hell
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