By Lanford Beard
February 16, 2012 at 10:03 PM EST

In a sad turn of events, Neil Hope, who played “Wheels” on the popular Canadian teen TV show Degrassi High from 1987-1991 is believed to have passed away over four years ago. A Facebook user named Tracy Northrup Hope, believed to be the actor’s sister-in-law, posted January 12, “It has been confirmed that Neil passed away Nov 25 2007. RIP You will always be in our hearts and always remembered. Now We all can be at peace. We miss you soo much !!!!xoxox.”

Hope died in 2007 of natural causes. His death had been kept private from the public at his family’s request.

Stephanie Cohen, Marketing and Communications Vice President for Degrassi‘s production company Epitome Pictures Inc., spoke with EW today. She could not confirm Northrup Hope’s relationship to the actor but said, “It would be horrible if this were some kind of hoax. I hope a reporter will [eventually] come to us with some kind of proof” if the news is true. Cohen met Hope when he appeared on Degrassi: The Next Generation in 2003 but after that, “[Neil] wasn’t in anyone’s lives.”

Linda Schuyler, who created the Degrassi series, her producing partner and Stephen Stohn also issued this statement: “Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team, who are like a family to us, and indeed to the live of many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played starting from the early days of The Kids of Degrassi Street. His life was not an easy one, but the time he spent with us was a shining example of determination, hard work, and hopeful optimism, and he is sorely missed.”

Cohen said there are no plans for a Degrassi cast memorial at the present time. “We have been very deferential to what the family has wanted,” said Cohen. “We’re standing by to do whatever they feel is appropriate.” She added, “His fans are certainly coming forward through social media and memorializing him in an appropriate way, and we will certainly do the same.”