Danny Aiello and his wife Sandy Cohen were married for over 60 years before his death

By Maria Pasquini
December 13, 2019 12:11 PM

Danny Aiello and his wife Sandy Cohen were married for 64 years before his death at 86 years old, but the secret to their lasting bond may come as a surprise.

The pair met in New York City, when Aiello was only 16, and spotted Sandy, then 15, outside of a window at a pool parlor. “That minute I was hooked,” he told PEOPLE in 1990. “I fell in love with the most beautiful girl in the Bronx.”

Within a year, the pair were married.

“He was very macho,” Sandy said of her husband. “He was the kind of guy most mothers would not want their daughters to be seen with. But he was so cute and so sweet. He still is.”

However, when asked what the key to their relationship was during a 2014 interview with CBS News, Aiello replied, “Oh, don't talk to each other!”

“No, I don't know. I really don't know,” he added. “It's like we're so different, too. We have nothing in common!”

Sandy went on to describe her husband as a “hard person to figure out.”

“He's not that easy. He's hard. And he's very deep,” she said.

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Aiello, 86, died on Thursday night at a medical facility in New Jersey, TMZ reported. According to the outlet, he was in the facility being treated for a sudden illness and had suffered an infection related to his treatment.

“It is with profound sorrow to report that Danny Aiello, beloved husband, father, grandfather, actor and musician passed away last night after a brief illness,” his family said in a statement to PEOPLE. “The family asks for privacy at this time. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.”

The actor broke into Hollywood in 1973 with a role in the baseball film Bang the Drum Slowly alongside Robert De Niro and he also played played Tony Rosato in The Godfather: Part II, where he said the famous line, “Michael Corleone says hello!”

Aiello received an Oscar nomination for his role in the classic 1989 Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing, in which he played Salvatore “Sal” Fragione, the owner of a pizzeria in Brooklyn.

Danny Aiello
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Outside of Hollywood, Aiello was also a stage actor, performing in multiple Broadway plays including Gemini, The Floating Light Bulb and The House of Blue Leaves. He also acted in television shows including Lady Blue and The Last Don.

“You know, I've only been in this business 17 years,” he told PEOPLE in 1990. “For actors, that's no time at all. Everything is happening so damn fast. It's like a beautiful dream that never seems to end.”

The actor is survived by his wife and three children. His son, Danny Aiello III, died of cancer in 2010.