Joseph Mascolo, Villain Stefano DiMera on 'Days of Our Lives,' Dies at 87

Joseph Mascolo - Photofest - H 2016
Courtesy of Photofest

The actor died Thursday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Joseph Mascolo, best known for playing the villainous role of Stefano DiMera on NBC's Days of Our Lives, died Thursday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 87.

His wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, confirmed the news in a statement: "Joseph was a big 'ol bear with a puppy dog heart. I’m so blessed to have had these many years with him. I will miss him every day."

Series co-creator Ken Corday also paid tribute to the actor and "beloved member of the Days of Our Lives family": "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."

Prior to landing his role on the NBC show, Mascolo starred in several Broadway productions (Dinner at Eight, That Championship Season) and other daytime soap operas, including Where the Heart Is, From These Roots, General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful.

His film credits include roles in 1978's Jaws 2, 1981's Sharky's Machine and 1986's Heat (he co-starred opposite Burt Reynolds in the last two).

The actor first appeared on Days of Our Lives in 1982 and had a recurring role (on and off throughout the years) until this year. He also had cameos in several primetime series, including All in the Family, Hunter and Hill Street Blues.

Mascolo also is survived by his son Peter, stepdaughter Laura and sister Marie.