Ms. Zeman, the Emmy-nominated actress who played the same role for nearly a half-century, died after a short battle with cancer, her family said.
Jacklyn Zeman, an Emmy-nominated actress who for nearly a half-century played the role of Bobbie Spencer, a nurse on the long-running soap opera “General Hospital,” died on Tuesday in California. She was 70.
Her death, at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, came after a “short battle” with cancer, according to her family.
In announcing Ms. Zeman’s death on Wednesday, the show’s executive producer, Frank Valentini, wrote on Twitter, “Just like her character, the legendary Bobbie Spencer, she was a bright light and true professional that brought so much positive energy with her to work.”
As Barbara Jean (Bobbie) Spencer, Ms. Zeman was one of the earliest cast members on the series, which since 1963 has centered around the lives of characters who work in the hospital and in the wealthy business community in the fictional New York town of Port Charles. Ms. Zeman first appeared on the show in 1977 and was featured in nearly 900 episodes.
Bobbie was a student nurse who had moved on from her past life as a prostitute who gave up a baby for adoption in Florida; vied for the affections of a law student named Scotty Baldwin; and was the younger sister of Anthony Geary’s Luke Spencer.
She portrayed her character as a loving but tough nurse who had emerged from a difficult past. In one scene, she defends her hard-knocks upbringing to Mr. Baldwin, saying she never had anything handed to her.
“I wanted Bobbie to be bouncy and have a positive aura and energy,” she said in an interview last year with TV Insider. “I wanted her to have intelligence, humor and a love of people. Bobbie came from a dysfunctional background but she wanted to have kids and be a mother.”
“I wanted the character to be perky and to come in like a hurricane,” she said.
Ms. Zeman was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the show and a fifth nomination in 2021 for her acting on the television series “The Bay.”
Jacklyn Lee Zeman was born on March 3, 1953, in Englewood, N.J., and grew up in Bergenfield. She was the oldest of three daughters born to Richard Zeman, an engineer with IBM, and Rita (Duhart) Zeman Rohlman, who worked for Scholastic Magazine.
She began training in ballet at the age of 5, said Cassidy Zee Macleod, one of Ms. Zeman’s two daughters. When she was 15, she moved to New York City to pursue dancing and attended New York University briefly, Ms. McLeod said. She was cast as Lana McLain in 1976 on “One Life to Live,” until her move to “General Hospital” in 1977.
In addition to Ms. McLeod and Lacey Rose Gorden, another daughter whom she had with her third husband, Glenn Gorden (they divorced in 2007), Ms Zeman is survived by two sisters, Lauren Fischetti and Carol Kolb, and two grandchildren.
In April, General Hospital celebrated 60 years on-air. Ms. Macleod said that one of her mother’s last appearances was on the show’s nurse’s ball in April.
Ms. Macleod said that her mother, who lived in Calabasas, Calif., adored the “strong-willed” role of Bobbie and that she and her sister recognized how deeply her mother’s role had affected people’s lives when some of the nurses caring for her described how Bobbie had inspired them.
“We recognized how many lives she touched,” said Ms. Macleod. “They said they became nurses because of her.”