"Days Of Our Lives" again says goodbye to an icon of the show. It was hard enough seeing him leave the set for the last time when his character was shot by Hope Brady as he said everything he could to get her to pull the trigger. It was the way the writers ended the legacy of Stefano in Salem.

Joseph Mascolo passed away on December 8th. He had been fighting Alzheimer's for years. Even so, he still managed to portray the most infamous criminal mastermind in Salem.

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He had legions of thugs to pull off his many schemes over the years and always managed to evade the police. He was the villain fans loved to hate. His character would fake his death, and "Days of Our Lives" fans would wonder if that was really it, and each time he would rise from the ashes. This gave him the nickname "The Phoenix."

His first love was classical music

Many years ago his career goal was to become an opera singer. While following that dream he crossed paths with a drama professor that encouraged him to try acting.

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He found his calling. His unique voice and polished look opened a lot of doors for him. Joseph Mascolo did many plays before debuting on the screen in "Diary of a Mad Housewife." Eventually he was on a TV miniseries "The Gangster Chronicles," which caught the eye of the "Days of Our Lives" execs.

The writers created the role of Stefano for him. Mascolo joined the cast in 1982 and brought the character to life. He left for "Bold and the Beautiful" in 2001 but returned to Salem in 2006 where he filmed his final scene.

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Honored for his charity work

The wonderful actor was very active in fundraising for the non-profit organization New Horizons. They provide counseling, guidance and job-seeking assistance for developmentally disabled adults. The city of Ocilla, Georgia has named a street after him for his work in building a group home for the emotionally and mentally impaired.

Joseph Mascolo is survived by his wife of 11 years, Patricia, a son, a step-daughter, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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