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Joseph Mascolo Dead: Days of Our Lives' Stefano DiMera Dies at 87

Days of Our Lives star Joseph Mascolo died on Wednesday, December 7, following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, He was 87.

The soap opera star, who is best known for his long stint playing criminal mastermind Stefano DiMera on the popular NBC daytime series, was remembered fondly by those closest to him. “Joseph was a big ‘ol bear with a puppy dog heart,” Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, his wife of 11 years, said in a statement. “I’m so blessed to have had these many years with him. I will miss him every day.”

The West Hartford, Connecticut, native joined the show in 1982 and played the villainous role all the way up until the character’s death earlier this year.

“It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the passing of our dear friend and beloved member of the Days of Our Lives family, Joseph Mascolo,” the show’s executive producer Ken Corday said in a statement to Soap Opera Digest. “The smile on Joe’s face is something we’d all come to find comfort in, and he will be sorely missed. His larger-than-life presence, kind heart and unwavering positivity has impacted us all for decades, and will live on in the memories of his many fans. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.”

Prior to acting on-camera, Mascolo dabbled in several other forms of performing arts; he was originally set to be a classical musician, but when a professor suggested he try his hand at theater, something clicked.

Mascolo’s acting career began in off-Broadway theater productions, and eventually took him to Los Angeles, where he made his big screen debut in 1970’s Diary of a Mad Housewife. Since then, he has also made appearances in such movies as Where the Heart Is, All in the Family, The Incredible Hulk, Kojak and Hill Street Blues.

Per Deadline, the actor is survived by his wife Patricia, his son Peter, his stepdaughter Laura, his sister Marie and her husband Ronald Lavoie, and five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, one niece, one nephew, three great-nieces, one great-nephew and one great-great niece.

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