The Power of Presence: A Tribute to Kristoff St. John

It has been a rough past week after the untimely passing of Kristoff St. John – a longtime and well-loved actor on the popular soap opera The Young and the Restless.

I have to admit, this was a tough one. We lose people everyday – famous or not – but Kristoff’s passing was unlike other celebrity deaths for me. He had an undeniable presence about him that extended far beyond those that knew him personally. He radiated an energy that left a deep imprint on so many lives – whether personally or through his character onscreen. And the overwhelming outpouring of love and support this week was reflective of that.

His character, Neil Winters, was a fan favourite ever since Kristoff originated the role in 1991. No matter what storyline he was in, everyone loved Neil. For those that grew up watching Y&R, you’ll know how iconic the pairing of Dru and Neil were. They were the ‘it’ couple on the show for years.

Dru was played by Victoria Rowell until 2007 when she left the show. I had always hoped for her return over the years and how great it would be for her and Neil to reunite. Their coupling was comparable to the iconic Nikki and Victor and Nick and Sharon.

This is a photo from their TV wedding from the early 90’s. Oh, the memories.

Victoria Rowell mourned her longtime friend in this interview earlier this week describing her love for Kristoff as eternal. They shared some beautiful memories from their earlier days on set. (Make sure you have a tissue box nearby).

I’ve been a loyal fan of The Young and the Restless for year. My mom originally got me into the show in the early ’90s and although she herself stopped watching years ago, she even messaged me about the news of Kristoff’s passing. That’s how strong of an imprint he’d left. You didn’t have to be watching the show now to remember the truly great ones.

The Very Real Dangers of Mental Illness

Kristoff’s death reignited the very real issues of mental illness. In the recent years, Kristoff was not really involved in any major storylines as he quietly dealt with his own personal challenges.

His son, Julian St. John, sadly passed away from suicide in 2014 at the age of 24. This undoubtedly took a huge toll on Kristoff and contributed to him being off screen for prolonged periods of time. It has been said that the weight of that loss never truly lifted for Kristoff. His family members, co-stars and friends all eluded to that. You can read this very raw account from a close friend of his who explains the pain he was feeling.

Kristoff was a talented and accomplished actor who had won numerous awards and accolades throughout his career. He knew how to turn on the Neil Winters charm when he came to work, but the deep pain and sorrow that he truly felt inside was something that we could only imagine.

Eric Braden, who plays the iconic Victor Newman on the show had such great camaderie with Kristoff on the show over the years. Neil Winters was Victor’s right-hand man at Newman Enterprises and they made a great pairing. When the chemistry is there off screen, it naturally filters in on screen.

Eric Braeden, Kristoff St John “The Young and the Restless” Set CBS television City Los Angeles 02/25/13 © Sean Smith/ 310-657-9661

Braeden said in an emotional interview this week that at the time of Kristoff’s son’s death, Kristoff initially seemed ok – which can be likened to a common defence mechanism when dealing with grief – but then Braeden explained that it became apparent afterwards that he was suppressing a deep pain and sorrow that few could probably understand.

This made me think back to what would now be his second last episode on the show from a few weeks ago – Kristoff was in a scene with Bryton James who plays Devon Hamilton. I remember observing him even then and just noticing how distracted he seemed. He just didn’t seem like himself – and I’m not referring to his character Neil – but him, Kristoff. He just looked sad; as if he was there but wasn’t there at the same time. I got the same feeling when I watched his final episode air this past week, though, of course, this was much harder to watch after what had transpired.

However, there was some level of comfort knowing that his last episode on the show centred around the importance of being there for family. It was truly bittersweet.

As melancholy as it may sound, I strongly believe that a person’s true impact in your life, whether direct or indirect, is never truly felt or understood, until they are no longer here. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to make time for those we care about. We can never be reminded of this too many times. Life will aways be busy, but it’s never too busy for family and loved ones. If you’re wondering how someone is doing, then reach out to them. Turn that thought into reality. You might be exactly what they need.

Kristoff was a special human being. He had an aura about him that few exude. You did not have to know him personally to know that he was a good, kind, and genuine man. The world has truly lost a beautiful soul but the memories will live on forever. There will never ever be another Neil Winters. I look forward to how Y&R will deliver the most appropriate send off for such a beloved character in the coming weeks.

My deepest and heartfelt condolences go out to Kristoff’s family and friends.

Rest peacefully, Kristoff. You will always have a special place in my heart.


7 thoughts on “The Power of Presence: A Tribute to Kristoff St. John

  1. Death is an eventuality, sometimes a tragedy.

    A few years ago, we said Good Bye to Paul Walker. Even though the last movie of the Fast and Furious franchise, was a great success, you just know that someone truly special wasn’t part of it and if he was, it would have been even more epic. When someone asked me about Walker’s death, I compared him to a modern day James Dean; who incidentally died in the fastest car produced by the same German manufacturer.

    Some people are exude such charisma, charm, presence, you are clearly taken in the moment you lay your eyes on him. I’ve never watched a full of “The Young and the Restless”, but I do remember watching “Roots”.. Kristoff was amazing.

    To hear he suffered in silence is not a new thing. Many celebrities do. Reminds me of another actor who’s presence on screen was always so memorable. He made us laugh, yet had his own struggles with depression.

    Whether a mental illness, or the result of a reckless act, death in a family is never easy and my deepest condolences for Kristoff’s family and friends.


    1. Totally, couldn’t agree more. That’s why I felt it necessary to reiterate the importance of reaching out more and if you’re wondering about someone, then let them know you care. It’s the least any of us can do. Thank you for your comments, Julian, much appreciated.


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