Monday, May 3

Helen Wagner Dies at 91

As The World Turns star Helen Wagner, who for 54 years played matriarch Nancy Hughes on the soap opera, died on May 1 at the age of 91.

Wagner, who spoke the first words on As The World Turns when the soap premiered on April 2, 1956, holds the Guinness world record for playing the same role on television for the longest amount of time. In 2004, Wagner was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Wagner was married to Broadway producer Robert Willey for 55 years until Willey’s death last May.

Helen Wagner (September 3, 1918 – May 1, 2010) was an American actress. She was born in Lubbock, Texas. She is best known for her long running role as Nancy Hughes on the soap opera As the World Turns. Wagner also played the role of Trudy Bauer during the first few television years of Guiding Light in the early 1950s. Wagner died on May 1, 2010, at the age of 91.

Wagner played As the World Turns matriarch Nancy Hughes (with only a few interruptions), since the show's debut in April 1956 until her death. She is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest-running character played by one actor on television.[2] When As the World Turns premiered on April 2, 1956, Wagner spoke the first lines of the program: "Good morning, dear."

In 1988, Wagner's alma mater, Monmouth College (Illinois), awarded her with an honorary degree of "Doctor of Humane Letters". The following year, Wagner chaired a national committee that raised more than $1 million to replace the school's "little theater" with a state-of-the-art theater. On the opening night in Monmouth's new Wells Theater, Wagner played the role of Eleanor in The Lion in Winter.
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