After collapsing in 2001, Villafane made his quest to lose weight a public issue, and was helped by celebrity diet guru Richard Simmons, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.
"I loved him very much," Simmons said Monday. "Love comes in all shapes and sizes, and Tiny was just a man filled with love for other people -- and he just didn't have enough love for himself."
His sister, Maria, also was instrumental in helping him overcome depression and lose more than half of his weight, but she died in 2003, sending him back to a cycle of eating, family members told the newspaper.
"He started gaining weight again, and he lost the battle," said his niece Michelle Fornes, 31. "He just gave up on himself at the end of the day."
Villafane weighed 460 pounds when he died Saturday, and although an autopsy is still planned, doctors said it was most likely cardiac failure that killed him.