Andrea Schenck, a cast member of "All My Children" in the early 1980s who left television acting and married a prominent Minneapolis doctor, drowned while vacationing in Mexico.

Schenck was relaxing in the water off the coast of Cancun on Jan. 13 and died while she and husband Dr. Carlos Schenck were on their annual vacation there and having just celebrated his birthday a day earlier. She was 55.

Schenck, who went by Andrea Moar professionally, was floating on her back not far from shore near the couple's vacation resort, "gazing at the sun, doing what she liked best" when she went under, her husband said Friday. "She loved the ocean."

Schenck's greatest prominence as an actress came during her three years in the early 1980s with ABC-TV's long-running "All My Children," portraying Carrie Sanders Tyler.

"She described her character starting out as an imp or a troublemaker [who] changed as she played it," said Jonathan Slaff, a longtime friend and long-ago "acting class buddy" with Schenck in New York City.

Slaff remembers her "great big blue eyes were wide open right into her heart." Combined with her shoulder-length blond hair, she was "often compare with Cybill Shepherd," he said.

Carlos Shenck said his wife "very much embraced" having her soap opera role as her professional legacy, "but she was multidimensional."

Her other acting credits included "The Women" at Park Square Theater in St. Paul in the late 1990s, nearly 60 other plays, a guest appearance in a "Remington Steele" television episode, and commercials for American Express and Kraft barbecue sauce.

Schenck left Los Angeles in the early 1990s following a major earthquake and as the AIDS epidemic was claiming the lives of several of her friends. She moved to the Twin Cities, where her mother and sister Sheila Moar were living.

"She missed the stage and acting desperately," Sheila Moar said. "She missed her friends ... who were in the acting profession, and many of her friends have been calling me these past several days. It is a huge outpouring of grief."

Carlos Schenck said he met his future wife at Sweeney's Saloon in St. Paul in 1998 through a mutual friend.

"We had so much in common," he said, recalling that they compared notes about when they both lived on New York's Upper West Side during her "All My Children" days and may have crossed paths without knowing it.

"We talked [that evening] for about three hours," sitting near an open fireplace on a chilly April evening. "We just talked and talked. We were just like best friends immediately."

The two married in 2005 and lived in a home near Lake Harriet, with his work as a sleep disorder expert taking them to conferences and other medical gatherings around the world.

In an interview during her soap opera days for the Davidson (N.C.) College yearbook, the 1978 graduate said that television fame meant "you can go anywhere in the world and be recognized. After a while, you crave anonymity. It makes you very self-conscious."

Carlos Schenck, a psychiatrist at Hennepin County Medical Center and the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, and a University of Minnesota professor, said his colleagues "were always looking forward to not just meeting me, but her" at the various conferences in Japan, Morocco and elsewhere. "Andrea really lights it up."

Andrea Schenck was born in Dayton, Ohio, and raised in Princeton, N.J., where she was a standout high school tennis player. She graduated from Davidson with a degree in English literature and played varsity tennis there.

Along with her husband and her sister, she is survived by her mother, Dimitria Murphy, of Edina, and brother Douglas P. Murphy of Ivy, Va.

A memorial service was held Saturday at the Weisman Art Museum. Memorials are preferred for  an actors training program at the Guthrie Theater.

"My sister remained to her absolute core passionate to acting," Moar said. "She wanted to do what she could to help young actors have an easier time of it."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482