Soap actress Shell Kepler dies at 49

Shell Kepler, who played gossipy nurse Amy Vining on General Hospital for 23 years, has died at age 49.

Played busybody nurse Amy Vining on General Hospital

Shell Kepler, who played gossipy nurse Amy Vining on General Hospital for 23 years, has died at age 49.

General Hospital star Shell Kepler, shown in 1992, beat out about 250 actresses for the juicy role of Amy Vining. The actress has died of renal failure. ((ABC/Associated Press))

Kepler died Friday in Portland, Ore., where she moved after ending her acting career and was involved in charitable causes. Celebrity website TMZ.com gives her cause of death as renal failure.

Kepler was one of 250 young actresses who auditioned for the role of the busybody nurse who became a fan favourite.

"I love playing Amy!" Shell said in a 1982 interview posted on the General Hospital site.

"She's a kid and I love being a kid. She's one of the most fun characters on the show."

"You may not like her but she's always interesting," Shell said. "There is always activity going on around her and you know something's going to happen. Something is going to be said, something is going to go wrong, but she's a high-energy character and I think that's nice. And I still haven't seen anybody on daytime TV, or prime-time TV for that matter, who is similar to Amy in character."

She played Amy Vining from 1979 until 2002, and had roles in the old sitcom Three's Company, General Hospital spinoff Port Charles and the 1982 film Homework.

Kepler was born in Ohio, spent her early years in Tennessee and moved to California when she was 10.

She said she always loved soap operas and decided to become an actress after seeing The Wizard of Oz at age two.

When she was 14, her mother died. Two years later, her father moved back east to accept a position as vice-president with a large corporation, and she and her brother, Fred Kepler, a guitarist and musician, stayed in Los Angeles.

"I managed to get my girlfriends to drive me to auditions because I wasn't old enough to drive. I was a rather ambitious kid," she said.

Kepler was also an astute businesswoman.

She had a line of clothing called Lacy Afternoon, marketed through the Home Shopping Club.

Kepler was married and divorced twice. She moved to Portland after leaving General Hospital in 2002.


With files from the Associated Press