"I know she’s in a better place," the Cake Boss star tells PEOPLE exclusively.

By Ana Calderone
July 19, 2017 12:05 PM

After losing his mother to ALS nearly a month ago, Buddy Valastro is doing exactly what Mary would have wanted for him now: returning to work.

“She doesn’t want me to stop,” he tells PEOPLE exclusively, sitting in his office filled with photos of his beloved mother. “She wants me to be the patriarch of the family and keep doing what I’m doing, 100 percent. There’s not even a doubt in my mind.” Easing back into his responsibilities at their ever-expanding Carlo’s Bakery has been natural for the Cake Boss star, but there is one New Jersey location of the family business that’s been giving him pause.

“I haven’t been back to Hoboken since she died and I know that when I go there, I’ll definitely break down,” he says of the original bakery that Mary helped run. “That place has got so much history and that was my mom’s spot, that was her store.”

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Mary was first diagnosed with the degenerative disorder often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which primarily affects the nerves and spinal cord, in 2011. In the past year, Buddy says, she lost almost all of her motor skills, relying on a wheelchair and a handicapped van to continue her visits to the bakery. On June 22 she died at age 69 of complications from pneumonia, one of the leading causes of death in ALS patients, surrounded by Buddy and his four sisters.

Though watching his mother struggle had been crushing for the chef, he’s finding some relief now. “As much as I miss her, I’m glad she didn’t have to suffer with feeding tubes, not knowing anyone and a painful death,” he says. “I know she’s in a better place.”

Buddy says he decided to speak out about her life and legacy because of how dedicated her fans have been. A few days after Mary died, there were dozens of flowers and mass cards left in front of the bakery. “Everyone was so supportive,” he says. “There were so many people who prayed for her, loved her and that’s why I’m doing this. I want people to know what happened and I want to thank them for always being supportive of her.”

For more on Buddy Valastro and his mother’s battle with ALS, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. 

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