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John Aniston, soap opera mainstay and father of Jennifer Aniston, dies at 89

An older man wearing a tuxedo stands in front of a backdrop on a red carpet.
John Aniston arrives at the 42nd Daytime Emmy Awards at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank on April 26, 2015.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

Actor John Aniston, who long starred in the daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives” and who was the father of “Friends” actor Jennifer Aniston, has died. He was 89.

His daughter confirmed Monday on Instagram that Aniston died Friday, sharing several photos of them together. She did not mention the cause of death.

“Sweet papa…⁣ John Anthony Aniston,” she wrote. “You were one of the most beautiful humans I ever knew. I am so grateful that you went soaring into the heavens in peace — and without pain. And on 11/11 no less! You always had perfect timing. That number will forever hold an even greater meaning for me now I’ll love you till the end of time.”

His daughter signed off her post with, “Don’t forget to visit.”

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Representatives for Jennifer Aniston did not immediately respond Monday to The Times’ requests for comment.

Like sands through the hourglass, the soap moved to Peacock recently after 57 years on NBC. Whether fans follow could determine the genre’s fate.

John Aniston, whose career spanned six decades, was best known for playing villainous crime lord Victor Kiriakis on the daytime drama set in the fictional Midwestern town of Salem. Since his debut as the character on the NBC series in 1985, he had remained a steady presence on the show. (The soap recently moved to NBC’s streaming platform, Peacock.)

The series on Monday paid tribute to the late actor with a video montage posted on Twitter.

“Our hearts are broken over the loss of our beloved family member John Aniston. We love you John. Your legend will live on,” the tweet said.

Aniston was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for the role in 2017 and last summer received the lifetime achievement award at the 49th Daytime Emmy Awards.

“Soap operas have just the right amount of recognition. You get just enough recognition to salve your ego and not enough to disrupt your life. Whereas some people, my daughter being one of them, can’t go anywhere,” he said in an extended interview with the Television Academy Foundation.

He also told the foundation that his proudest career achievement was performing in a Theatre East production of “The Royal Hunt of the Sun.” His career regrets? Not being cast as Ted Baxter in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” a role that ultimately went to Ted Knight. Aniston said producers didn’t want “any possibility of a romance between the character and Mary, and with me there would’ve been that possibility.”

“Once I saw it — you get pissed off about something — [Knight] was perfect for it,” he told the foundation.

Born Yannis Anastassakis on the Greek island of Crete on July 24, 1933, Aniston and his family moved to the United States when he was 2. They shortened their last name to Aniston and settled in Pennsylvania, where his parents opened a diner called the Rialto. Aniston and his brother and sisters worked there alongside their parents before he went to college. He later graduated from Penn State University with a degree in theater arts and began acting after enlisting in the Navy, where he served as a Naval Intelligence officer and reached the rank of lieutenant commander.

Aniston began acting in the 1960s with a small part on the series “New Man in the Precinct” and appeared in soap operas. He was first cast on “Days of Our Lives” in a minor role as Eric Richards in 1970, but also appeared in soap operas “Love of Life” and “Search for Tomorrow.”

‘I don’t have anything to hide at this point,’ Jennifer Aniston said while shutting down rumors that she refused to have a baby with Brad Pitt.

“I was a mature adult when I was 18. I didn’t really start working until I was 40,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to grow into things.”

The actor also notched guest roles in “Star Trek: Voyager,” “The West Wing,” “Gilmore Girls,” “My Big Fat Greek Life,” “American Dreams,” “Cold Case” and “Mad Men.”

Aniston was married to fellow actor Nancy Dow, Jennifer Aniston’s mother, from 1965 to 1980. She died in 1990.

In 1984, he married his “Love of Life” co-star Sherry Rooney, with whom he had a son, artist Alex Aniston.

“John’s genteel character, charm and great sense of humor will be missed but certainly not forgotten as he leaves behind an incredible body of work and legacy over the course of his career [that] spanned 60+ years of continuous work,” his manager, Richard N. Lewis, said Monday in a statement to The Times. “He was a devoted husband, father, and friend to millions of fans across the globe.”

Aniston is survived by his wife and two children.


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