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Hawaii-born actress remembered for role on ‘M*A*S*H’

  • COURTESY NALANI COLEMAN
                                Hawaii-born actress Kellye Nakahara Wallett, who played Lt. Kellye Yamato on the Korean War sitcom “M*A*S*H,” died Sunday in California. She was 73.

    COURTESY NALANI COLEMAN

    Hawaii-born actress Kellye Nakahara Wallett, who played Lt. Kellye Yamato on the Korean War sitcom “M*A*S*H,” died Sunday in California. She was 73.

Kellye Nakahara Wallett, a film and television actress best known for playing Nurse Kellye Yamato on the popular series “M*A*S*H,” has died.

Wallett, 73, died Sunday after a brief battle with ovarian cancer. Family members said she was at her home in Pasadena, Calif., surrounded by family and friends.

Wallett was born Avis Watson at Kapiolani Hospital (now Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children). She graduated from Kalani High School in 1965 and took on the stage name Kellye Nakahara after she moved to California to pursue acting.

Her hanai sister, Suzanne Takimoto, said Wallett grew up in Aina Haina and was affectionately called by her nickname, Pugsie, by close friends and family.

Their mothers were best friends, and Wallett’s mother helped raise Takimoto.

“She was always dancing and singing,” said Takimoto of Wallett. She recalled her performances in high school plays and how she enjoyed hula and Tahitian dancing.

“She was always bubbly and full of fun,” said Takimoto. “She always had a really good outlook on life.”

Wallett played the role of Lt. Kellye Yamato on the acclaimed sitcom set during the Korean War. “M*A*S*H” ran from 1972 to 1983. In the show, Nurse Kellye carries a secret crush on the show’s main character, the womanizing surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, played by Alan Alda.

Takimoto recounted how Wallett became friends with her co-stars and would bring them to Takimoto’s mother’s restaurant, Junie’s Coffee Shop in Kaneohe, to dine. “They would autograph pictures and hang it up,” she said.

Wallett also appeared in films “Clue,” “Doctor Dolittle” and “She’s Having a Baby.”

Family members also described her as a wonderful watercolor artist.

Wallett’s daughter, Nalani Coleman, said she realized as she got older the impact her mother had on viewers. Coleman recalled how people approached her mother and told her how they can relate to her and described her as an inspiration.

“She was my best friend,” said Wallett’s daughter, who resides approximately 15 minutes away from her parents. “We saw each other multiple times a day.”

“She was so fun and funny and so stylish,” said Coleman during a phone interview from Pasadena.

Family members say Wallett will be best remembered for her welcoming and genuine nature. She exuded the aloha spirit. “Everybody just wanted to be around her,” said her daughter.

In addition to Coleman, Wallett is also survived by husband David Wallett, son William Wallett and four grandsons.

Services are pending.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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