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Boxer-turned-actor Frank Albanese dies at 84; played Tony Soprano's forgetful Uncle Pat

Boxer-turned-actor Frank Albanese dies at 84; played Tony Soprano's forgetful Uncle Pat
Frank Albanese and Tony Sirico in 2010 in New York City. Albanese played Uncle Pat in "The Sopranos", while Sirico was a show regular as Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri. (Bobby Bank / WireImage)

He sparred with Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore as an up-and-coming boxer and later carved out a second career as a character actor, appearing in "The Godfather" and later "Goodfellas."

But it was his brief yet highly memorable role as Tony Soprano's aging and ever-so-forgetful uncle that brought Frank Albanese into sharper focus.

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Albanese, who died Oct. 8 of prostate cancer at the age of 84, made only four appearances on "The Sopranos," but his role as Uncle Pat Blundetto -- a former mob foot soldier who has retired from "the business" – was hard to forget.

Retired to a farm in upstate New York, Uncle Pat had suffered through a yearlong stretch of hiccups and at times had contemplated suicide. When Tony Soprano and his crew show up at the farm one day to hurriedly unearth several bodies before developers begin grading the land for a housing tract, Uncle Pat can't quite remember where they are buried.

Born May 16, 1931, on Staten Island, N.Y., Albanese became a boxer as a teenager and, though his pro career stretched for only a dozen or so fights, he claimed to have won them all by knockout. He gave up the sport at the age of 19 when scar tissue was discovered on this brain, according to Boxing.com.

Albanese pursued acting, but made a living as a longshoreman, truck driver and occasional cabbie. When the roles did come, they generally centered around mayhem and bloodshed and played off Albanese's tough-guy image.

He had an uncredited role in "The Godfather," played a mob lawyer on "Goodfellas" and was cast as Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, head of the powerful Gambino crime family, in an episode of "America's Most Wanted."

Asked once whether he preferred boxing or acting, Albanese seemed torn by the question.

"That's tough," he told Boxing.com. "Each one is very challenging, and you are all alone in front of a crowd.

"But," he added, "I think I like boxing better."

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