Nancy Hughes is a fictional character on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns. Since the show's inception 52 years ago in 1956, Nancy Hughes has served as the core family's (and by extension, the town's) matriarch. Since the fall of 1988 her full name has been Nancy Hughes McCloskey, but she is more known to longtime soap viewers as simply Nancy Hughes. Nancy is played by Helen Wagner.
She is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest-running character played by one actor, on television, ever.
She is one of the original characters of the long-running soap, and actually spoke the first line on the debut episode on April 2 1956 ("Good morning dear, what would you like for breakfast?"). Show creator Irna Phillips modeled Nancy in the mold of a member of a Greek chorus: someone who stays mostly on the sidelines but nevertheless comments on the crises that more dynamic residents of the town faced. In many respects, Nancy's "moral voice" served to further how Phillips wanted certain characters to be perceived by the public. When Nancy spoke out against her son Bob's ex-wife Lisa in the mid-1960s, the Lisa character became, by and large, the character everyone "loved to hate." Likewise, when Nancy forgave Lisa for her past transgressions in the 1970s, public opinion softened toward Lisa and she became a respected character on the program.
Traditionally a housewife, Nancy was bit by the feminism bug in the late 1970s and worked for a time as a secretary. In the early 1980s, she quit that job and returned to keeping house. For the last several years, she has worked as a volunteer at Oakdale Memorial Hospital, at which her son, Bob, is Chief of Staff.
In 1936, she married attorney Christopher Hughes, and they had four children (three of which were seen on the show; a daughter died while swimming in a pool during a thunderstorm before the series started). Chris died in 1986, shortly after he and Nancy celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. After a considerable mourning period, she married Detective Dan McClosky (Chief of the Oakdale Police Department) in 1987. McClosky developed Alzheimer's disease in 1994 and died two years later. She later enjoyed the company of Joe D'Angelo, as the two developed a strong bond over their frustrations at being unable to help their respective offspring with their ongoing problems. Since Det. McClosky's death, Nancy has lived with her son Dr. Bob Hughes and his wife, Kim, and has spent much of her time with her grandchildren. She is particularly close to her grandson Chris.
Nancy is nowadays seen only rarely on the program, averaging about three or four appearances a month when the storyline permits. Unlike other soap actors who have advanced in years (such as Anna Lee and Frances Reid), Helen Wagner has had relatively few health problems, and her lack of appearances on the series were almost solely due to limited storyline. The character made a long awaited appearance at Tom and Margo's 25th Wedding Anniversary on July 2nd, 2008.
Much of her screen time in 2006 finds the character "embroiled in a mystery surrounding the publication of a scandalous novel, "Oakdale Confidential," which sheds light on the checkered pasts of several characters."
The Hughes Family remains one of the oldest core families of any soap opera to date.
m. Marion Hughes