Billie Hayes, who was known to millions of children as the scene-stealing Witchiepoo on the Saturday morning kids’ show H.R. Pufntstuf, has died at the age of 96. Her family shared the news that the actress, who also appeared on General Hospital as O’Reilly, partner of Tristan Rogers’s Robert Scorpio, passed away at Cedars Hospital on April 29.
Tristan Rogers Honors Billie Hayes
The actress, born on August 25, 1925, in DuQuoin, Illinois, began performing when she was just 9 years old. After appearing on stage (including Broadway), she made her way to the West Coast and began working in television.
She appeared first on GH in 1981 as Agent Brighton O’Reilly, Robert Scorpio’s mentor in the WSB. O’Reilly assisted Robert (whom she affectionately called “Sonny”), Luke (Anthony Geary), and Laura (Genie Francis) as they were trying to keep the Cassadines from executing a nefarious plot.
While monitoring the Cassadines, O’Reilly was shot while talking to Robert from a payphone located by the Port Charles docks. A fatally-wounded O’Reilly was rushed to Rick Webber’s (Chris Robinson) clinic where she shared a tender goodbye with Robert. Her final request was for him to get the Cassadines.
Hayes reprised her role as O’Reilly in 1985 when GH told, in flashbacks, how Robert came to work with and marry Anna Devane (Finola Hughes).
“My dear wonderful Billie Hayes has died,” Rogers posted on Twitter. “Sadly I only got to work with her on GH but it was a magical relationship. Right away Gloria Monty [executive producer] saw something unique and ran with it. I cannot tell you how her passing saddens me.”
Hughes responded to the news with her own condolences for her co-star. “Oh Tris I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved her xxxx.”
“It saddens me as well. You made a great team,” longtime GH viewer Maxine Bennett told Rogers. “Billie’s character was quite unique especially for daytime. Everyone loved O’Reilly. May She Rest in Peace.”
After amassing numerous stage credits including stints on Broadway, Hayes landed the role of Witchiepoo on H.R. Pufnstuf in 1969. The series told the story of a boy named Jimmy (Jack Wild), who was lured to Living Island by Witchiepoo, where he and his pal Freddy the Flute were befriended by H.R. Pufnstuf and other island residents. Only 17 episodes of the Sid & Marty Krofft series were produced, but Hayes’s performance as Witchiepoo helped make the show memorable.
“Margaret Hamilton (Wizard of Oz) once told us that Billie Hayes was ‘one of the best witches ever,'” tweeted Sid and Marty Krofft. “We couldn’t agree more. Rest in Peace dear friend. #RIP #Billiehayes.”
Hayes reprised Witchiepoo in the feature film Pufnstuf in 1970 and in an ABC Halloween special alongside fellow fictional witch Hamilton in 1976.
Hayes continued to work regularly, mostly with voiceover roles. Her credits include Paw Paws, Darkwing Duck, Problem Child, The Brothers Flub, Teen Titans Go!, and Transformers: Rescue Bots.
She is survived by niece Nancy Powers, nephews Tom Brosch, Louie Brosch, and Guy Brosch; their spouses; and several great-nieces and -nephews. The family requests donations in lieu of flowers to Pet Hope, a nonprofit Hayes founded in 1984 in order to help our four-legged friends.
Soap Hub sends sincere condolences to Billie Hayes’s family, friends, and fans at this difficult time.
Oh Tris I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved her xxxx
— Finola Hughes (@finolahughes) May 4, 2021
It saddens me as well. You made a great team. Billie’s character was quite unique especially for daytime. Everyone loved O’Reilly. May She Rest in Peace.
— Maxine (@MaxineBennett) May 3, 2021
— 𝕊𝕚𝕕 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕄𝕒𝕣𝕥𝕪 𝕂𝕣𝕠𝕗𝕗𝕥 (@SidMartyKrofft) May 3, 2021