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January 31, 2009, marked the passing of One Life to Live leading man Clint Ritchie at age 70.

At least his death was said to be peaceful. But that only lessens the impact of the loss so much. One Life to Live fans will never forget Clint Ritchie or the combination of raging bull and “Aw, shucks!” charm that he brought to the role of Asa Buchanan’s elder son — and arguably Viki Riley’s true love — Clint.

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Stories From the Set

Off screen, the North Dakota native had a similarly dichotomous personality. On the one hand, he could be ornery, leading lady Erika Slezak told SoapCentral in 2014. “He’d come back from lunch, usually one he had drunk, and was so happy. Then we would be getting notes from the director, and the booze started to wear off.

“He could get so mean,” she added.

On the other hand, Ritchie could be every bit as doting as Clint was to Viki. “I have always had back problems,” Slezak told the website. “One day Clint saw me laying on the floor. When he negotiated his next contract, he said I had to be given a director’s chair to sit in. It was so sweet.”

ONE LIFE TO LIVE, from left: Clint Ritchie, Philip Carey, Robert S. Woods, John Loprieno, (1994), 1968-2013. ph: Ann Limongello/©ABC/courtesy Everett Collection

Destined for Greatness

From early on, it had seemed like fame and fortune were in the cards for Ritchie, who was voted Handsome Harry by his high-school classmates. After moving to California, he landed parts in a variety of moves (including Patton) and TV series (such as The Wild, Wild West). But it was landing the part of Llanview cowboy/Banner editor Clint in 1979 that really made him a star.

Over the years, Ritchie became so closely identified with his character that it could be hard to tell where one began and the other ended. And even when he was badly injured in 1993 — he took a tumble off his John Deere tractor, which then rolled over him! — his role wasn’t recast. How could it be? (Clint was just said to be off screen recovering from a plane crash.)

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The End of the Trail

After Ritchie retired to his ranch near Grass Valley in California in late 1998, he spoke with his fan club about why he’d decided to call it a day. “It’s a totally different show than it used to be, and Clint Buchanan is a totally different character,” he said. “[His and Viki’s] marriage was trashed. They also trashed Clint Buchanan and the whole family. I think it was a huge mistake.” (Years later, his role was recast with Guiding Light vet Jerry verDorn, who brought to it an entirely different flavor.)

Eleven years after Ritchie quit as a One Life to Live regular, he underwent successful surgery to have a pacemaker implanted. Unfortunately, the procedure resulted in a blood clot traveling to his brain, resulting in his having a massive stroke. He died in his sleep a few days later.

Perhaps on this sad anniversary, you’d like to cheer yourself up by remembering better times — like the decades that we spent in Llanview — via the photo gallery below.