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Jacklyn Zeman, longtime “General Hospital” star who played Bobbie Spencer, dies at 70

Jacklyn Zeman, who played Bobbie Spencer for 45 years on ABC’s “General Hospital” has died at 70. Zeman died after a short battle with cancer, her family confirmed Wednesday. News of her death was first announced by the show’s executive producer, Frank Valentini.

“I am heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Jackie Zeman,” he wrote on Twitter. “Just like her character, the legendary Bobbie Spencer, she was a bright light and a true professional that brought so much positive energy with her work.”

ABC Entertainment and “General Hospital” also released a statement stating, “Jacklyn Zeman has been a beloved member of the General Hospital and ABC family since she originated the iconic role of Bobbie Spencer over 45 years ago. She leaves behind a lasting legacy for her Emmy-nominated portrayal of the bad girl turned heroine and will always be remembered for her kind heart and radiant spirit. We are devastated by the news of her passing, and send our deepest condolences to Jackie’s family, friends and loved ones.”

Zeman first joined “General Hospital” in 1977 as Barbara Jean, who went by Bobbie, and was the feisty, younger sister of Anthony Geary’s Luke Spencer. Zeman grew to regard Geary as family off camera. “I’m probably closer to him than I would be a real-life brother,” she told co-star Maurice Benard last year on his YouTube series “State of Mind.”

Bobbie had worked as a teen prostitute and given up a baby for adoption but had managed to turn her life around and become a nurse at General Hospital. Zeman’s portrayal of Spencer was a spirited, upbeat woman who was as sweet as pie but who also had a sense of self. She didn’t suffer fools and had no problem revoking the niceties if she believed it were warranted.

“Bobbie has been a fascinating person for me to play,” she said in an interview in 1982. “I get to do… all the things that most women think about but wouldn’t dare.”

Season 4 Private Cast Screening Of
Actress Jacklyn Zeman attends the Season 4 Private Cast Screening Of “The Bay” at Garry Marshall Theatre on December 19, 2018 in Burbank, California.

/ Getty Images

One of Zeman’s most memorable scenes was in 1994 and Bobbie’s daughter BJ is in a school bus accident that leaves her brain dead. Bobbie and then-husband Tony (played by Brad Maule) made the decision to donate their daughter’s heart to her cousin, Maxie, who was battling Kawasaki disease.

Laura Wright, who plays Bobbie’s daughter Carly Spencer, posted a series of broken heart emojis. Jon Lindstrom, who plays Kevin Collins wrote, “This is going to take me a minute to process. I can’t believe such a life force as hers has left.”

Born March 6, 1953 in Englewood, New Jersey, Zeman discovered a love for dance as a child and as a teen, began acting in school productions. She worked in Venezuela as a dancer after high school and was pre-med at New York University but dropped out when she was offered a contract at the ABC soap “One Life to Live” after originally being hired for just three days of work.

On ‘One Life,” she played Lana McClain for a little more than one year and then left for “General Hospital.” “I didn’t even audition,” she told a blogger in 2010. Zeman was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the show.

Outside of soap operas, Zeman worked as a Playboy Bunny to help pay for college and also acted in commercials. She had a role in 1982’s “National Lampoon’s Class Reunion” appeared in a string of TV movies including the ABC Afterschool special “Montana Crossroads” in 1993. She also had a series regular role as Sofia Madison in the crime-drama series “The Bay,” earning her a fifth Emmy Award nomination.

Zeman last’s appearance on “General Hospital” before her death was in April for the wedding of her character’s grandson. The same month she also celebrated the show’s 60th anniversary by posting a video on Instagram to the fans.

“A great, big heartfelt thank you to the very special people who have been watching us and supporting us and keeping us on the air all these years. We love you.”

Zeman is survived by two daughters, Cassidy and Lacey from her first marriage to Glenn Gordon. She was married and divorced two more time to Steve Gribbin and disc jockey Murray Kaufman who went by “Murray the K.”

“Jackie will be greatly missed, but her positive spirit will always live on with our cast and crew,” Valentini wrote on Twitter. “We send our heartfelt sympathy to her loved ones, friends, and family, especially her daughters Cassidy and Lacey.”

“General Hospital” actress Jacklyn Zeman is seen in this September 5, 1984, photograph.

ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

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