'Touched by an Angel' star John Dye has died; was former Memphian
By John Beifuss
Originally published 01:20 p.m., January 13, 2011
Updated 11:03 p.m., January 13, 2011
Even as the Angel of Death on all nine seasons of the CBS-TV series "Touched by an Angel," the late John Dye was an actor who celebrated love and life.
"He turned the idea of the Angel of Death into something that was compassionate and welcoming," said Dye's younger brother, Jerre Dye, artistic director of the Voices of the South theater company in Memphis. "He not only took the role very seriously, in true John form he took on a greater responsibility of wanting to be there for people — to be a loving person. The people John loved — he poured so much love into us."
Even so, Dye was unpretentious about being known as the personification of death.
"When you see me in my white suit and I start glowing, you know somebody's toast," he told The Commercial Appeal in 1999.
He said he was a regular churchgoer and Episcopal church member in the Bay Area, but he was no angel, despite his TV fame.
"As my father would say, I can sleep in a garage every night, but that's not going to make me a car," he said.
The boyish-looking Dye, 47, a Mississippi-born theater major at then-Memphis State and local actor who achieved success in movies and television, died Monday of a heart attack at his home in San Francisco, his brother said.
The death was little publicized until the family worked out the details for the actor's public memorial service, which will be 1 p.m. Jan. 22 at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church in Amory, Miss., the town where Dye was born and where his parents, Jim and Lynn Dye, still live.
The Dye brothers — John, Jerre, 39, and Jamey, 43, who now lives in Chattanooga — were born in Amory, but the family moved to Cleveland, Tenn., and then Tupelo, where John Dye attended high school and later directed a production of "Grease."
He spent a year at Mississippi State University, but transferred to then-Memphis State, to be a theater major in the College of Communication.
In 1986, Dye moved to Los Angeles and struggled for a few years before achieving success, mostly on television. He appeared on "The Young and the Restless" and "Murder, She Wrote," and was a regular cast member on such short-lived late 1980s and 1990s series as "Hotel Malibu" (co-starring Jennifer Lopez), "Jack's Place" and the critically acclaimed "Tour of Duty."
He was most recognized for his work on the inspirational "Touched by an Angel," a series produced in Salt Lake City in which "caseworker" angel Roma Downey brought guidance and heavenly help to troubled souls on Earth, with the help of mentor angel Della Reese.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Amory Food Pantry or a local food bank, or to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Dye also leaves his only surviving grandparent, Irene Duvall of Tupelo.