|Degrassi Junior High actor Neil Hope (in glasses)|
The Degrassi Junior High actor Neil Hope, who played Derek "Wheels" Wheeler on the popular 1980s TV series, died in near-anonymity over four years ago, his family has confirmed after lengthy attempts to track down his whereabouts.
The reclusive actor had little contact with family and friends during his final years and died alone in an Ontario, Canada, rooming house in 2007, claims his ex-fiance Christina Boulard. Boulard says that the star of the groundbreaking television series died from natural causes at the age of 35 but declined to elaborate, only saying Hope suffered from diabetes.
Hope was one of Degrassi's earliest stars, appearing as Griff on the first installment, The Kids of Degrassi Street, in 1979.On the later Degrassi Junior High he portrayed the troubled character Derek Wheeler, known as "Wheels", who struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. The actor was candid about his own difficult childhood growing up with parents who were alcoholics.
Hope would make guest appearances on Degrassi: The Next Generation in 2001 and 2003, but parts became scarce for the struggling actor. Boulard is planning a private memorial in June for Hope's old Degrassi colleagues and close friends in order to pay tribute to their fallen fellow actor and friend.