John D. Hess

TV scribe, playwright

TV scribe and playwright John D. Hess, who created TV soap “Love of Life,” died April 15 of natural causes in Bucks County, Penn. He was 85.

He began his professional career as a staff writer for WGN radio in Chicago, and also wrote short stories for magazines such as Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, and Colliers.

In 1950, Hess originated and wrote the live TV soap opera “Love of Life,” which ran for 30 years. He also wrote for other soaps, including “Secret Storm” and “General Hospital.”

He supplemented this with work in the theater. In 1953, his controversial play “The Gray Eyed People” was produced on Broadway, starring Walter Matthau. He also was involved with Mike Ellis’ Bucks County Playhouse in the 1950s and 1960s, where his plays “The Facts of Life,” “The Better Mousetrap” and “A Perfect Frenzy” premiered.

In 1961, he wrote and produced a feature thriller, “A Matter of Morals,” starring Patrick O’Neal and Maj-Britt Nillson. His television work included the 1959 mystery “The Wicked Scheme of Jebal Deeks” as well as “MASH,” “Alice,” “One Day at a Time,” “Streets of San Francisco,” “The Rockford Files,” and “Ben Casey.”

He is survived by wife Mary Ann, two sons, a brother and two grandsons.

Donations may be made to the John D. Hess 1939 Fund at Dartmouth College, c/o Elizabeth Spencer, Hanover, NH 03755-3525; or the Nature Conservancy, 4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203-1606.

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