As The World Turns Star Dies at 91

Aw, the woman who’s played Nancy Huges on the soap opera “As the World Turns” forever has died:

Actress Helen Wagner, who played mild-mannered Nancy Hughes on the CBS soap opera ”As the World Turns” for more than a half-century and spoke its first words, has died at age 91.

She died Saturday, said the show’s New York-based production company, TeleNext Media Inc., which didn’t say where she died or what was the cause of her death.

Wagner opened ”As the World Turns” when it premiered on April 2, 1956, with the words: ”Good morning, dear.” She held the Guinness World Record for playing the same role on television for the longest amount of time, TeleNext Media said.

I grew up watching “As the World Turns” and its CBS sister, “Guiding Light,” at my grandmother’s knee — literally.  She’d sit in her recliner, and either I’d sit on the floor in front of her or my sister would (or we both would, once Grandpa came home and claimed his recliner). My grandparents were the first people I knew who owned a VCR and actually used the programming feature on it, so that every day, while my grandmother was at work, it would whir to life and record her stories.

By the time I was watching ATWT, Nancy Hughes was mostly a character who only showed up when her son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Kim, were throwing one of their legendary neighborhood cookouts or birthday bashes. I don’t remember her being involved in any scandals. She was just Dr. Bob’s mother, a solid, thoughtful presence in a town (like all soap opera towns) prone to chaos and drama.

I guess what I’m really mourning is the death of “As the World Turns,” which will air its last episode this September. Of course I didn’t know Helen Wagner, the woman or the actress, but I knew, for a time, Nancy Hughes, thanks to that dynamic, crazy, engaging show. It’s a bit like hearing that an old friend’s grandmother has died.

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6 Responses to As The World Turns Star Dies at 91

  1. punterjoe says:

    I will remember Nancy Wagner on As The World Turns as the performer who is interrupted with the CBS bulletin of the JFK shooting. It’s an awful way to be immortalized, but it hints at what a staple of daily life Wagner and her soap had been for so many generations.

    • Jenn says:

      I only just read about that last night. Amazing. She was nearly on the show from its start to its finish.

      • henrietta dabney says:

        I think that she was on the show not to long ago when Bob and Kim were having problems because they found out that they were not married. I have followed the program for a long time. I did’nt know that you were going to cansel the program. So sorry about that.
        H. D

      • Jenn says:

        I promise I didn’t cancel it! But I, too, was sad to learn it was coming to an end this year.

  2. CG says:

    She was truly one of a kind, with a stunning career. Right there with you mourning the death of ATWT along with “Nancy.” If the writers had done what longtime fans desperately asked for, instead of ignoring us (shedding talentless models in favor of all stories being written for veterans and Luke/Noah), they could have saved this show. But obviously they didn’t want to.

    • Jenn says:

      I admit, I haven’t watched the show in years, but I had heard complaints from my grandmother about the quality of the storylines. It’s too bad — they really had a good thing going for so long!

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