According to his iMDB page, he appeared in over 1,600 episodes on the long-running NBC soap series

By Natalie Stone
Updated December 09, 2016 07:52 PM

Joseph Mascolo, who played Stefano DiMera on Days of Our Lives, has died. He was 87.

Mascolo died Wednesday, Dec. 8 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, a Days of Our Lives spokesperson confirmed to PEOPLE.

“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 smile on Joe’s face is something we’d all come to find comfort in, and he will be sorely missed,” Days executive producer Ken Corday said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “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.”

Born March 13, 1929 in West Hartford, Connecticut, the veteran actor got guest roles on numerous TV series, including his first role as Domino in General Hospital, before scoring the role of Mayor Pete Santori on Bronk in 1975, which was later followed with a starring role as Salvatore Maranzano 1981’s TV mini-series The Gangster Chronicles and his role as Carlo Alvarez in 1985 TV series Santa Barbara.

The actor, who regarded theatre as his first love, appeared in numerous off-Broadway and Broadway productions throughout his career, and also earned numerous film roles, including Diary of a Mad Housewife, Jaws II, Shaft’s Big Score and Yes Giorgio!

In 1982, he scored the role of villain Stefano DiMera on Days of Our Lives — he appeared in over 1,600 episodes on the long-running NBC soap series, according to his iMDB page — which opened the door to his role as Nicholas Van Buren on General Hospital in 1989. Mascolo was also a familiar and beloved face on soap series The Bold and the Beautiful, on which he starred as Massimo Marone IV in 475 episodes from 2001-2006.

“He was such a sweet guy. He had a long-standing tradition that if he was shooting the last scene of the day, he would have whoever was left there to his dressing room for dirty martinis,” a former coworker told PEOPLE about the late actor.

Mascolo resided with his wife Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, in Los Angeles up until his death.

He is survived by his wife, his son Peter, his step-daughter Laura, his sister, Marie and her husband Ronald LaVoie, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, among many nieces and nephews.