The soap opera actor died on Friday at the age of 98
Bill Hayes' wife Susan Seaforth-Hayes is mourning the loss of the Days of Our Lives star.
“To all of you who honored my Billy with a word of remembrance, a sense of personal loss, or even a tear- I thank you,” she wrote alongside a series of photo booth snapshots of the pair. “You touched my heart by seeing in him the goodness and joy I experienced every moment of our wonderful marriage."
She added: “May we all embrace life with the gusto of Bill Hayes- and enrich it with grace and love ♥️ xx Susan”
PEOPLE confirmed the actor, born William Foster Hayes III, died on Friday at the age of 98.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of our beloved Bill Hayes. One of the longest-running characters on Days of our Lives, Bill originated the role of ‘Doug Williams’ in 1970 and portrayed him continuously throughout his life,” a rep for Days of Our Lives told PEOPLE.
“He and his wife, Susan Seaforth-Hayes, remained the foundation of the Williams-Horton family spanning more than 50 years,” the rep added.
Days of Our Lives executive producer Ken Corday said, “I have known Bill for most of my life and he embodied the heart and soul of Days of our Lives. Although we are grieving and will miss him, Bill’s indelible legacy will live on in our hearts and the stories we tell, both on and off the screen.”
The Harvey, Illinois-born talent celebrated his 98th birthday on the set of the Peacock soap opera last summer. His costars marked the special occasion with a personalized cake featuring a photo of him in his younger years.
“Happy Birthday Bill,” was written on the bottom of the sweet treat. His wife was by his side for the special moment.
While presenting him with the cake, she told those gathered on set that Bill was the first person to ever sing on daytime television. His cast members and on-set staff cheered on the accomplishment. The tribute was captured on video and posted to their joint Instagram account at the time. After she told the room about his historic first, the others were cued to sing “Happy Birthday” to him.
“Thank you to our cast and crew for celebrating Billy’s 98th Birthday on set today. And the double chocolate cake was delicious! 🎂❤️,” the carousel was captioned.
Following his death last week, Hayes' former Days costar Alison Sweeney (ex-Sami) wrote of him in an Instagram post, "The happiness captured in Bill’s expression in this photo is how he was everyday I saw him."
And Kristian Alfonso (Hope) wrote, "You will forever be in my heart Billy 💔🙏."
Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) remembered Hayes as "the sweetest, happiest man around, who always came to set singing a song," and proved it with an Instagram video of him singing in the Days makeup room.
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In 2018, Bill won the Daytime Emmy’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades-long portrayal of Doug Williams on the soap opera.
The show had proved special to him in more ways than one. He and Seaforth-Hayes met on the set of the soap and shared an on-screen kiss in July 1970. They eventually became a couple in real life, tying the knot in October 1974.
The couple had a second wedding when their television characters also said “I do” to one another on Oct. 1, 1976.
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