(CNN)Joseph Mascolo, the actor who portrayed archvillain Stefano DiMera on the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” died this week at 87 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, the network said.
Mascolo passed away Wednesday, but NBCUniversal announced his death Friday.
He joined the daytime drama in 1982 and was featured intermittently until his last appearance this year.
“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,” said his wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Mascolo had many roles in a decades-long acting career but was best known as DiMera, a villain also known as “The Phoenix” for many dramatic comebacks from supposed demise. He won three Soap Opera Digest awards for outstanding villain.
He last appeared on the show in January, when his character apparently was shot to death. Naturally fans wondered whether “The Phoenix” would rise again, but Mascolo hinted otherwise.
“Last spring, I had a small stroke,” he told Soap Opera Digest in January. “During my rehab, I thought this would be a good time for Stefano to leave.
“The producers visited me and we worked out a tentative plan, and the writers beefed up the storyline to what you see on TV.”