Hegyes, 60, died of an apparent heart attack after suffering chest pains at his New Jersey home.
Hegyes’ health had been declining for the past two years, his brother Mark Hegyes explained. The actor had suffered a previous heart attack in recent years.
Police responded to an emergency call from Hegyes’ home at approximately 9 a.m, Thursday. He was transported to JFK Medical Center in New Jersey, however he had gone into full cardiac arrest.
Hegyes was best-known for his role as Juan Epstein – full name: Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein – on the 1970s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” from 1975 to 1979. The Epstein character was constantly scheming and always ready with a self-written note signed “Epstein’s Mother” to explain his school absences.
A New Jersey native, Hegyes studied speech and theater at Rowan University (where he taught later in his career) before working on stage in New York both on and off Broadway. In 1975, Hegyes was cast on Welcome Back, Kotter as one of the Sweathogs alongside a young John Travolta. After the comedy’s four-year run, Hegyes joined the detective series Cagney & Lacey as undercover detective Manny Esposito.
More recently, Hegyes guest-starred on shows like NewsRadio, Diagnosis Murder and The Drew Carey Show. Last year, Hegyes reunited with the rest of the Welcome Back, Kotter cast at the annual TV Land Awards.
He leaves behind a two children, Cassie and Mack, and two step-children, Sophia and Alex.