General Hospital’s John Reilly Dead at 84: ‘The Brightest Light in the World Has Gone Out’
ABC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
He was “the kindest man you ever could find” according to former co-star Finola Hughes (Anna).
It’s almost impossible to think about the heyday of General Hospital without the images which flicker through your memory including a few of John Reilly, whose Sean Donely played a central role in some of the epic adventures which unfolded in Port Charles during the late 1980s.
Sadly, the beloved daytime vet — who also appeared on soaps ranging from Passions to Sunset Beach — passed away on January 9 at the age of 84.
“The brightest light in the world has gone out,” wrote the star’s daughter, Caitlin Reilly, on her Instagram page. “Imagine the best person in the world. Now imagine that person being your dad.
“I’m so grateful I got to love him,” she continued. “I’m so grateful I made it in time to hold him and say goodbye. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know he’ll be with me. I love you forever, Daddy.”
Although known for a variety of roles in both daytime and primetime, Reilly will for many of us forever be remembered as Sean, the roguish (mostly) good guy who found love with glamourpuss Tiffany Hill. To this day, the pair’s wedding — at which Sean discovered that his bride had been born Elsie Mae Crumholz — remains a favorite among longtime General Hospital fans. (You can watch it unfold in the clip below.)
Upon hearing the news, a heartbroken Finola Hughes (Anna) told our sister site TVLine that Reilly had been “a big brother to me. The kindest man you could ever find. I can not express how sorry I am to hear of his passing.”
Although best known for his 11-year run as General Hospital‘s Sean, Reilly’s first daytime role was actually that of As The World Turns’ Dan Stewart, a part he played for just over two years beginning in 1974. He also spent three years walking in the shoes of twisted Crane family patriarch Alistair on NBC’s Passions, a role about as far removed from his real-life persona as imaginable. (See photo below, with Kathleen Noone.)
Primetime soap fans knew him as Bill Taylor, the oft-mentioned, rarely-seen dad of Jennie Garth’s Kelly Taylor on Beverly Hills, 90210. More recently, he appeared on the Web-based soap The Bay.
But so strongly associated was the actor with the role of Sean that he was invited to appear on SOAPnet’s General Hospital spin-off, Night Shift. And he would make a special appearance on the mothership during a storyline designed to help mark General Hospital‘s 50th anniversary in 2013.
As we mourn the passing of a true daytime legend, leave your memories of the Reilly scene you’ll never forget in the comments. Then click here to read what more of his former colleagues had to say about him, and join us in remembering some of the bright stars we lost from around the daytime dial in 2020 via the photo gallery below.