Eileen Saki, a talented actress, was born in Japan and later moved to the United States with her family. Her father, who had a background in theater in Japan, made sure she had the opportunity to pursue her passion for singing and dancing by setting aside money for her lessons. From as early as the age of 4, she knew she wanted to grace the stage with her performances.
One of Saki’s most notable roles was on the beloved sitcom M*A*S*H, where she portrayed Rosie, the owner of Rosie’s Bar. Tragically, on May 1, 2023, Eileen Saki passed away at the age of 79, leaving behind a legacy of talent and memorable performances.
A touching tribute was shared on the M*A*S*H Matters Podcast by Saki’s former co-star, Jeff Maxwell, known for his role as Pvt. Igor Straminsky on the long-running series. In his tribute, Maxwell expressed sincere gratitude to the hundreds of M*A*S*H fans who provided peace, encouragement, and love to Eileen during her final days. He also mentioned that she personally read and responded to as many emails as she could. The loss of this remarkable actress has left a void in the hearts of many.
Although the official cause of her passing was not disclosed in the Facebook announcement, PEOPLE magazine reported that Eileen Saki succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Her manager, Camilla Fluxman Pines, stated that she had been diagnosed with the illness in January. This was not the first time Saki battled cancer, having successfully overcome lung cancer back in 2004.
Saki’s acting journey began in 1974 with her debut in the movie “Policewoman.” Her involvement with M*A*S*H spanned from 1976 to 1981, with her first appearance on the show occurring during the first episode of season 5. Initially, she portrayed the head Madam of a group of prostitutes before later returning as Rosie, the final actress to bring this character to life.
Intriguingly, Saki’s transition into the role of Rosie on M*A*S*H mirrored a real-life event. As detailed in the book “The Last Days of M*A*S*H” by Alan and Arlene Alda, actor Alan Alda received a letter from the real-life Rosie Jr., who explained that during the Korean War, Rosie’s Bar was passed down from mother to daughter. This unexpected connection added an extra layer of authenticity to Saki’s portrayal.
While M*A*S*H brought Saki widespread recognition, she also made notable contributions to various other movies, TV shows, and commercials throughout her career. Even shortly before her diagnosis, she had the opportunity to audition and work in the industry she cherished so deeply, including shooting a couple of significant commercials. The video below showcases some of her most memorable roles, illustrating her versatility as an actress.
Eileen Saki is survived by her loving husband, Bob Borgen. Her passing is a tremendous loss for the entertainment industry, but her talent and spirit will continue to inspire for generations to come.