Kellye Nakahara Wallett, who played Lt. Kellye Yamato on all 11 seasons of the classic series M*A*S*H and was the cook in the 1985 feature Clue, died Sunday at her home in Pasadena after a brief battle with cancer. She was 72. Her son William Wallett confirmed the news to the Associated Press.
Wallet also played the cook in the 1985 feature Clue; had bit roles in films including She’s Having a Baby and 1998’s Dr. Dolittle; and guested on such popular TV series as Hunter, Growing Pains, NYPD Blue and Little House on the Prairie.
But the Oahu, Hawaii, native will be best remembered for her long run on one of the most honored, popular and enduring series in television history.
Billed as Kellye Nakahara, she mostly was a background player in the early seasons of CBS’ M*A*S*H as one of the nurses who toiled in the mobile Army surgical hospital during the Korean War. Her 1st Lt. Yamato had a memorable major role in the 1982 episode titled “Hey, Look Me Over,” when her crush on Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (Alan Alda) was featured.
In that final-season episode, Yamato scolds perennial ladies’ man Hawkeye for having his eyes “on every nurse” except her. “For your information,” she tells him, “I happen to have a fantastic sense of humor, a bubbly personality and I am warm and sensitive like you wouldn’t believe. I also sing and play the guitar and I’m learning to tap dance. And on top of all that, I happen to be cute as hell.”
Wallett was an extra during the show’s first season in 1972-73, behind stars Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit and McLean Stevenson. The dramedy based on Robert Altman’s 1970 feature was not an immediate hit, failing to make the top 25 among primetime programs that season. But its fortunes soon changed, and M*A*S*H would go on to be a top 10 program for each of its final 10 seasons.
Wallett appeared in more than 185 episodes of M*A*S*H including the 2.5-hour series finale. Airing in February 1983, it remains the most-watched episode of series television in history, with more than 105 million viewers and a still-stunning 60.2 rating/77 share.
Wallett is survived by her husband of more than 40 years, David Wallett; their two children; and two grandchildren.