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Shemar Moore Remembers Kristoff St. John: ‘He Opened Doors for Me’

*Following the tragic news of actor Kristoff St. John’s unexpected death on Sunday, several celebs are paying tribute to “The Young and the Restless” star, including his former co-star Shemar Moore.

“I’m raised an only child, but Kristoff is truly the closest thing to a brother and a brother’s love and a brother’s mentorship that I’ve ever known,” Moore tells PEOPLE about St. John, who unexpectedly died at age 52 over the weekend.

According to TMZ, St. John had checked into UCLA Medical Center in January to treat depression related to his son’s suicide and he was released within the last few days.

Moore took to Instagram to pay tribute.

“Mr. Kristoff St. John,” an emotional Moore began. “I lost my brother yesterday. I’ve never had a brother, but you were my brother. You showed me the way. You were my mentor. You were my inspiration. You showed me what true talent was. You showed me what humility was. I love you. I hate this. I love you. But I’m going to celebrate all your good. To my Y&R family: Kristoff St. John a.k.a. Neil Winters, celebrate this man. The most popular, iconic black man in soap opera daytime history. Give him that. He earned it.”

OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WE REMEMBER: Kristoff St. John (‘Young & the Restless’) Found Dead at 52: Report

Shemar Moore, Kristoff St. John

Moore ended his post by telling St. John to “sleep, man” and “find your peace.” In the caption he promised, “I’ll finish what YOU started.”

St. John and Moore, 48, starred on “The Young & the Restless,” on which St. John played Neil Winters and Moore played his half-brother.

Moore recalled his early days on the long-running CBS soap opera, telling PEOPLE that St. John was a strong support system.

“He didn’t have to embrace me the way he did. When I came in and was trying to find my way and he saw how scared I was, he saw how nervous I was,” Moore says. “He saw my six pack and all that, but he just saw me and he embraced me like a brother. If he hadn’t embraced me, I would have never got my sure footing in the beginning days.”

Moore says “He was the sexiest black man on television from what my aunties and grandmothers told me before I’d ever knew that I was ever going to share the stage with him on The Young & the Restless.”

“He opened doors for me and many. He opened doors for people who don’t even realize he opened doors, but he did,” he added. “He opened doors and he was so committed to his craft. He always wanted to be better. He wanted to touch people and he did.”

Moore also credits St. John for propelling his career.

Shemar Moore, Kristoff St. John

“Without Kristoff St. John, there’s no Neil Winters. Without Neil Winters, there’s no opportunity for Malcolm Winters. And without Malcolm Winters, there’s no Shemar Moore. And if Shemar Moore didn’t get my chance to try on The Young & the Restless, then I don’t sit here today with let alone this career or this life. Not in this way. And I will give Kristoff, and I always have given Kristoff — and I’m not just saying this to be cute because of what’s happening today — I told him in the beginning because he embraced me the way he embraced me is the only reason that I have the life and career that I have,” explains Moore.

“I would have life, but it would have been on a very different tangent and a very different lane. I will always give Kristoff that credit. I will always thank The Young & the Restless for taking a chance on me so that I can have this career. Kristoff was there in the trenches with me — day to day to day, he rooted for me. He didn’t have to. He didn’t have to, and many wouldn’t, but he rooted for me; he helped me; he held my hand; he said, ‘Stick with me, bruh, I’m going to show you the way and then you do what you’re doing.’ “

St. John’s death came two weeks after he mourned the loss of his son Julian, who struggled with mental illness and died by suicide four years ago at age 24.

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