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Cory Monteith during Globe interview in 2009. Monteith, who played Finn Hudson on the musical comedy Glee, was found dead on July 13, 2013 at a hotel in Vancouver, Canada, police said.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The sudden death of Cory Monteith, the Victoria-raised actor whose portrayal of quarterback-turned-crooner Finn Hudson on the hit television show Glee made him one of Canada's rising on-screen stars, has drawn shock and condolences from sources at the Vancouver hotel where he took his final breath, in Ottawa, in Hollywood, and beyond.

Police and the coroner are still piecing together the events leading up to the 31-year-old's death on the 21st floor of the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Constable Brian Montague, a Vancouver police spokesman, told The Globe and Mail Mr. Monteith was in his hotel room with three friends Friday night. The four then headed for a downtown establishment, though the spokesman wouldn't identify which one or even its neighbourhood.

A cause of death has not been determined, but police have said it does not appear there was foul play. Mr. Monteith's substance-abuse problems were well documented. He had previously spoken of his drug and alcohol use as a teenager and sought help for substance addiction earlier this year.

But the former Wal-Mart greeter and taxi driver seemed intent on helping others avoid some of his mistakes. He visited Vancouver's poverty-stricken, drug-ridden Downtown Eastside last year – alongside Sir Richard Branson – to unveil a program that offered a theatre experience for at-risk youth.

His family, friends, and fans are struggling to understand why his life was cut short, with some holding out hope his too-brief career leaves an inspiring legacy.

Richard Monteith, who said he was the actor's cousin, wept as he stood outside the hotel Sunday, where a small memorial with flowers and a stuffed animal sprung up.

"I lost a hero," he told The Globe through tears.

He said he last saw his cousin in April and the actor was "fantastic."

Constable Montague said Mr. Monteith returned to his hotel room alone, around 2:15 a.m. Police had previously said only that Mr. Monteith returned in the "early morning hours."

His body was discovered around noon Saturday, after he missed his check-out time.

His death was announced by police and the B.C. Coroners Service at a news conference Saturday night.

Mr. Monteith had checked into the hotel on July 6. Police and the coroner have declined comment on what was discovered in his hotel room, or where his body was found. An exact autopsy date has not been set, though it is expected early this week.

Mr. Monteith spoke with The Globe last year, when he was in Vancouver to announce the theatre program for at-risk youth. During the interview, he said he was going down "a very dark path" before he met Maureen Webb, one of the women behind the program, called the Project Limelight Society.

Ms. Webb used Twitter early Friday to thank Mr. Monteith for a great evening, referring a meal they shared with others at the East of Main café on Thursday night. In a statement, Ms. Webb and her Project Limelight Society co-owner Donalda Weaver wrote they were "deeply saddened" by the death of their "good friend." They called him "an amazing young man with a generous heart."

In a blog post Sunday, Mr. Branson called Mr. Monteith a "beautiful soul" who was "deeply committed to ending youth homelessness."

Heritage Minister James Moore took to Twitter to call Mr. Monteith's death a "terrible loss." The actor's cast mates and other celebrities also shared their condolences.

Outside the Vancouver hotel, 16-year-old Helen Slater placed a stuffed moose, as well as a note for Mr. Monteith, at the memorial.

She said she was shocked to hear the news of his death and called him "a complete goofball" and a "positive influence." She decided a stuffed moose was a fitting tribute because Mr. Monteith was Canadian, and had been seen in photos wearing moose antlers.

Peter Jorgensen, an actor and director whose production of Avenue Q is currently running in Vancouver, led a glee club in Burnaby in 2011 that he said was "directly inspired by Glee and how much of a sensation it was."

"I think one of the things Glee did was show in a really popular way the joy of just getting together with people and singing and dancing," he said in an interview.

Mr. Jorgensen said he hopes Mr. Monteith leaves a legacy, even if his career was suddenly cut short.

"If a few boys, if it turned out they decided to join the glee club because they saw this cool, football player on TV singing and dancing, then I think he made a positive mark on the world," he said.