Heartbreaking Soap Opera Star Deaths In 2023

Reporting a death is always heartbreaking, especially in end-of-the-year tallies of those we've lost. Soap opera stars have some of the most fervent fans and are remembered very fondly after their passing. Several celebrities passed away in 2022, and among them were quite a few soap actors. 

They included Quinn Redeker, who was on both "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless;" Jerry verDorn, who played the iconic Clint Buchanan on "One Life to Live;" legendary "Days" star John Aniston, who portrayed the lovable yet dastardly Victor Kiriakis; and beloved "General Hospital" stalwart Sonya Eddy, whose fan-favorite character Epiphany Johnson remains in the hearts of soap fans.

This year hasn't been easy for fans of movies and TV shows more generally either. Stars like Ryan O'Neal ("Love Story"), Matthew Perry ("Friends"), Suzanne Somers ("Three's Company"), Richard Roundtree ("Shaft"), and sitcom auteur Norman Lear are just a scant few icons who sadly shuffled off this mortal coil. Several soap opera stars also died in 2023, and here we present many who are gone but not forgotten.

Mark Goddard

Heartthrob Mark Goddard didn't just save the Robinson family as the hot-headed pilot Major Don West on the classic sci-fi series "Lost in Space," he also won hearts on "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital" as Ted Clayton and Derek Barrington respectively. In the book "They Fought in the Creature Features," the prolific star explained that, back in 1958, Goddard thought he would be the next James Dean, but, "When I went to New York, there were about five hundred Jimmy Deans runnin' around. We all had our red jackets and our little motorcycles," (via The Hollywood Reporter). Sadly, Goddard died at age 87 in October. 

Arleen Sorkin

Arleen Sorkin died at age 67 in August 2023. The actor was not only beloved by "Days of Our Lives" fans for playing the wacky Calliope Jones from 1984 to 2010, but she also found another niche as the voice of the villain Harley Quinn in "Batman: The Animated Series" from 1992 to 1994 (she reprised the role in several spinoffs too). On August 26, James Gunn, the current co-chairman and co-CEO of DC, posted a photo of Sorkin and Harley on Instagram with the heartfelt caption: "Rest in Peace, Arleen Sorkin, the incredibly talented original voice of Harley Quinn, who helped to create the character so many of us love. Love to her family and friends."

Lara Parker

Lara Parker, who passed away at the age of 84 in October, was part of one of the most offbeat and beloved soap operas ever, "Dark Shadows." She played Angelique Bouchard, a witch with an agenda who existed among a cast of horror characters. In 2016, she admitted to Den of Geek that while working on the show from 1967 to 1971, she was unaware of her impact on the women's movement. As Parker acknowledged, "I think it's rare to pick up on that in the moment. I think only looking back I see that I was actually fortunate to be, in a small sense, one of the movers and shakers in the women's movement."

Andrea Evans

Andrea Evans was a well-known soap star before her untimely death, at age 66, in July. Known for her roles in "The Bold and the Beautiful," "Passions," and "The Young and the Restless," Evans became a household name when she portrayed iconic bad girl Tina Lord on "One Life to Live," from 1978 to 2011. Despite taking nearly a decade off from acting because of a stalker, she returned to "OLTL" twice: In 2008, and 2011. As Evans confidently asserted, "It's time to give the audience what they want. And it's time for me to get closure on why I left in the first place," (via Deadline). 

Ellen Holly

Ellen Holly, who died at 92 in early December, was a groundbreaking actor who starred in "One Life to Live" as Carla Gray from 1968 to 1985. At a time when there was a great deal of racial tension in America, Holly busted through barriers by becoming the first Black leading actor in a soap opera. She not only played a character who had difficulties getting ahead in life because of the color of her skin, Holly also faced plenty of prejudice in real life too, but her tenacity prevailed as she became a major star who is already greatly missed by fans.

Billy Miller

On September 15, 43-year-old Billy Miller shockingly passed away, with his death sadly ruled a suicide following an autopsy. The actor got his start in soaps playing Richie Novak on "All My Children" in 2007. The following year, he moved over to "The Young and the Restless," taking on the character of Billy Abbott. Many notably consider Miller to be the best iteration of the Abbott scion. In 2014, he was a recast of Jason Morgan on "General Hospital," who turned out to actually be Jason's twin, Drew Cain, but believed he was Jason due to a memory mapping experiment. Miller always brought a certain gravitas to his roles, leaving his mark on daytime dramas forever.

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Tyler Christopher

"Days of Our Lives" and "General Hospital" star Tyler Christopher led a tragic life that was cut remarkably short when he died in October from a cardiac issue at the age of just 50. The beloved star originated the character of Nikolas Cassadine on "GH" in 1996, quickly becoming a fan favorite. In 2017, he originated another popular character, Stefan DiMera, on "Days." Sadly, his highly-publicized struggles with addiction resulted in Christopher being fired from both sudsers and although he made several attempts to turn his life around, the toll the abuse took on the actor's body finally caught up to him, tragically ending his life much too soon. 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Jacklyn Zeman

In July, "General Hospital" stars celebrated Jacklyn Zeman at an emotional memorial service following her passing a couple of months prior. The beloved soap star had portrayed Bobbi Spencer, the sister of the legendary Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) and mother of Carly Spencer (Laura Wright) and Lucas Jones (Ryan Carnes),  since 1977. Bobbi went from a rough upbringing to becoming a spectacular nurse at the eponymous hospital. Adored both on and off screen, executive producer Frank Valenti wrote on X, formerly Twitter, "Just like her character, the legendary Bobbie Spencer, she was a bright light and true professional that brought so much positive energy with her to work."