Neil Hope


A member of the Degrassi family has been gone for some time—but nobody knew until now!

Neil Hope, who starred in the cult-favorite Canadian series Degrassi Junior High from 1987-1989 as Derek "Wheels" Wheeler, was found dead in a Hamilton, Ontario, rooming house more than four years ago, but his estranged family just learned of his passing last month.

Police found Hope's body on Nov. 25, 2007 and ultimately determined that the 35-year-old, who was diabetic, had died of natural causes, according to the Toronto Star.

But how did no one close to him know?

Hope's onetime fiancée, Christina Boulard, told the Star that her ex's brother and sister-in-law had heard rumors that he had died several years ago and that police had informed Hope's parents that they suspected the death, but that certain records didn't match up.

He was buried in 2008 at an undisclosed location.

The actor last played the bespectacled Wheels in 2003 on the ongoing reboot Degrassi: The Next Generation (of which Drake is an alum), when he showed up to rock out with former bandmates Joey Jeremiah and Archie "Snake" Simpson (Joe Mastroianni and Stefan Brogren).

Hope also played Griff on the original incarnation of the series, 1979's The Kids of Degrassi Street.

"Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team, who are like a family to us, and indeed to the lives of many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played," Degrassi producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn said in a statement.

"His life was not an easy one, but the time he spent with us was a shining example of determination, hard work and hopeful optimism and he is sorely missed."

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