OWENSBORO, Ky. – Christine Johnson Smith, who originated the role of Nettie Fowler in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel” when it debuted on Broadway in 1945, has died.

She was 98.

Glenn Funeral Home said she died Wednesday at her home in Owensboro.

The Messenger-Inquirer newspaper reported she was a native of Hopkinsville but moved to Owensboro as a teen and studied in Tennessee at the Nashville Conservatory of Music before moving to New York in 1937.

She debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1943 before taking the role in “Carousel.”

She married Dr. Robert W. Smith in 1949 and returned to Kentucky to raise a family.

She is survived by two daughters.

The newspaper said she frequently told people she was “the most fortunate lady in the world to have had a successful career and the most satisfying private life.”

Funeral services will be held today at First Christian Church.