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Stefano DiMera of ‘Days of Our Lives’ dies

Joseph Mascolo, who played the villain Stefano DiMera on 'Days of Our Lives', had been battling Alzheimer’s disease.

Actor Joseph Mascolo attends the ‘Days Of Our Lives' 50th Anniversary Celebration at Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG – Joseph Mascolo, who played the villain and patriarch Stefano DiMera on Days of Our Lives, died on Thursday.

He was 87-years-old and had been battling Alzheimer’s disease.

His wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, said 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.”

Co-worker Alison Sweeney, who played Sami Brady on the soap opera, said in a tweet “I always had a sense of awe to work with Joe”.

In Days of Our Lives, Mascolo played a wealthy European businessman from 1982 to 1985, and then returned in 1988 and from 1993 to 2001.

He continued making appearances until the character died on the show in 2016, after at least a dozen fake deaths.

Soap Opera Digest named him the all-time best villain.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia, a son, a step-daughter, a sister, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.