Now that the new season of TLC’s Cake Boss is set to premiere on Saturday, Sept. 30, fans are wondering what happened to Buddy Valastro’s mother, Mary Valastro. Sadly, the cake chef’s mom — who was a staple on the family’s hit reality TV series — passed away on June 22, 2017, at 69 years old after an eight-year battle with ALS.

But even though Mary is gone, she will not be forgotten. In a sneak peek from tonight’s Cake Boss season premiere, Buddy worked hard on decorating a yummy-looking vanilla sponge cake with strawberry rose filling, decorated with tons of gorgeous flowers made out of frosting. As he worked, Buddy reminisced about his own mom, Mary.

“My mom is such an amazing woman. She taught me so many different things — about giving back, about trying to be a good person, about hard work. And Carlo’s Bakery couldn’t be what it is without my mom,” the 40-year-old said. “My dad was a great influence in my life, but my mom was, too. My dad taught me how to make cakes, but my mom taught me how to be the boss.”

Keep reading below to learn more about Mary’s life, her ALS diagnosis and her struggle with the disease.

Mary was diagnosed with ALS in 2011

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and it is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which weakens the muscles in the body and affects motor skills. It is unclear what causes ALS, and while there are treatments to help slow down the disease’s progress, there is no cure.

“I can confirm that my mother Mary — the heartbeat of the Valastro family and Mama to all of Carlo’s Bakery – has been diagnosed with ALS,” Buddy revealed in a statement to People back in 2012. “She is tackling it with the strength and determination she always shows, and the entire family is in this together, fighting for her. We’d like to thank all of our fans for the love and prayers — it means a great deal to all of us.”

Mary’s ALS progressively got worse

In the year before her death, Mary had lost all of her motor skills and she had to use a wheelchair — but she still made her visits to the family-owned Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, NJ via a handicapped van until her death, People reported.

Buddy shared touching photos of Mary’s funeral on Instagram

Following Mary’s passing, her only son, Buddy, took to Instagram to share a few photos of the special tributes family, friends, and fans had left Mama Valastro. The two snapshots showed the Valastro family’s flagship Carlo’s Bakery location in Hoboken, NJ adorned with an array of flowers. Outside the shop, two flower boards featured the messages “#1 Grandma” and “Mama Mary.” Another arrangement was created to emulate the Carlo’s Bakery entrance.

“Hoboken ❤️,” Buddy simply captioned the side-by-side photos. “So very sorry for the loss of your mother, she will be your [family’s] angel in heaven,” one of the reality star’s 2.4 million followers commented on the pic with another adding, “What a beautiful tribute!”

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Light of our lives.

A post shared by Buddy Valastro (@buddyvalastro) on

Mary’s obituary remembered her “larger than life personality”

In Mary’s obituary, her family revealed that Mary previously moved from Italy to the US with her parents and siblings. After they settled in Hoboken, NJ, Mary met her future-husband, Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Sr., at Carlo’s Bakery — Buddy Sr. purchased the establishment in 1964 — and the two fell in love, married, and later welcomed five children together. “Most known for her larger than life personality, Mary was beloved by many,” her obituary read. “Her magnetic energy had the uncanny ability to bring smiles to the faces of everyone around her. Although Mary officially retired in 2010, she continued to visit [the bakery], singing animatedly and bringing joy to the Carlo’s Bakery employees and guests who had come to love her.”

Fans will get to say goodbye to Mary on the new season of Cake Boss

Out of respect for the family, Buddy chose not to allow TLC cameras to film the funeral but he did give cameras access to the reception. “I feel like that’s what she would’ve wanted,” Buddy told People. “We want to keep her memory alive. The way I keep my father’s memory alive, I’m going to keep my mother’s alive.”