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by Dave Friant

It’s Valentine’s Day month! Cupid preparing to activate the bow and let fly some opportune arrows. Late afternoon scrambling on the 13th at the Target store. An unusual grouping of last-minute males in the card section deciding whether to go the heart-thumping route for the little lady or explore the bottom shelf for the hard-to-find buck fifty messages of love.

More importantly, time for a full-blown Zoom interview involving a special husband and wife duo who are noteworthy daytime television entertainers. Johnny Mercer’s 1937 “Horray for Hollywood” song comes to mind with this venture into the West coast’s land of twists and turns. Welcome to la-la-land.

They’ve been exercising their craft for over half of a century. Two soap opera stars who continue to abide by “action” and “cut” director commands for NBC’s Days of Our Lives. Bill Hayes (96 years old) and Susan Seaforth Hayes (his 78-year-old spouse of 47 years) met in January 1970. Susan had been on DOOL (the acronym for big-time devotees of the melodrama) since 1968 and continues to perform as Julie Williams on the daytime serial. Bill began his role later in 1970 as Doug Williams, a convict/lounge singer who most recently has slipped into demonic possession. The two characters married on-set in 1976 after having officially “tied the knot” off-set in 1974. The dean of dialogue continues his mastery of script line memorization through recurring DOOL episodes.

Bill’s career started in the late 1940’s as a musician. Among many other professional projects for a sizable stretch of years, he was a regular performer on Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, was a star vocalist on Broadway’s Me and Juliet in 1953, and recorded in 1955 the “Ballad of Davy Crockett” which was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks.

The late 1960’s saw a switch in professional focus for this accomplished entertainer. Dramatic acting roles became his pursuit and led to his role on DOOL. Bill Hayes has won two Daytime Emmy Awards (1975 and 1976) and the Soapy Award for Actor of the Year in 1977 for his work. He appeared with his spouse on the cover of TIME magazine in 1976. The two earned Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2018. They enjoy reading historical non-fiction works, watching 60 Minutes and Jeopardy on television, and graciously sacrificing the time and effort involved in writing their second book. A continuously voiced sincerity and loving commitment to Susan is easily evident when interacting with Mr. Hayes.

He is the father of five children from his first wife. A dozen grandchildren found their way into the world based on that union. Involving themselves with activities and updates concerning family is a joy and welcome relief from the rigors of the acting profession for both Bill and Susan.

After a short stint in the military where he trained for two years as a Fighter Pilot, Hayes returned to civilian life/educational pursuits and earned a Bachelors degree in Music and English in 1947. He later took classes at Northwestern and earned a graduate degree in Music. In conjunction with some theatre work being done in West Virginia where his family had lived, Hayes did some genealogical studies. It became a pursuit through classwork and academic studies at West Virginia University where he earned a Doctorate degree in Education.

The two have emceed the yearly telethon and been a part of the West Texas Rehab Center in Abilene for over 40 years. Bill notes that “while being on a float behind Sherri Lewis (the famous ventriloquist) at New York’s Macy’s Day Parade, Susan and I were introduced to her. She had been a part of the Rehab Center and desired a replacement. That is how it began.”

“I’ve never been a quitter, and I’ve got no plans to retire,” indicates Bill Hayes in response to a question about advice he might give men who are having difficult times regarding the finding of continued purpose in their lives. He advises men to “be optimistic and not a complainer. Work on establishing relationships. They are so important.”

Bill and Susan are involved in the production of short video clips (at least six at the time of this writing) entitled “Secrets of Soap Opera Lovers.” Tips for keeping marriages alive range from a “Seize the Day” approach involving daily voiced confirmations of love toward your mate, to promise-keeping assurances associated with wedding vows.

It’s been a remedy for the blahs and “what’s the point” realities of senior adulthood for years. Emphases on the importance of sustaining close-knit relationships and the favorable impacts involved with mental alertness. Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes are the real deal and epitomize such attributes that go well beyond scripts on a daytime entertainment show. In no way should they be considered relics to be shelved. Relevance during “senior years” and provisions of encouragement to others are characteristics that define this unique team. They are joyfully centered with a clarity of purpose about the aspects of life that bring about happiness. •

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