The Days of Our Lives actor passed away on Wednesday (07Dec16), according to

"Joseph was a big 'ol bear with a puppy dog heart," says his widow Patricia Schultz-Mascolo. "I'm so blessed to have had these many years with him. I will miss him every day."

Mascolo began his career onstage in Off Broadway productions in New York, and later relocated to Los Angeles, where he landed a film role in 1970's Diary of a Mad Housewife.

The Connecticut native went on to appear in TV shows like The Doctors, Where the Heart Is, Kojak, The Rockford Files, and The Incredible Hulk, but it was his big break in 1982, when he was cast as the Days of Our Lives villain Stefano DiMera, which propelled him to fame. He continued to portray the criminal mastermind up until earlier this year (16), when Stefano was killed off.

He also starred in other top soaps General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful.