The Cake Boss star lost his dad when he was just 17

By Rachel DeSantis and Ana Calderone
June 17, 2019 02:01 PM
Credit: Buddy Valastro/Instagram

Buddy Valastro’s grief in losing his father at just 17 remains strong — especially on Father’s Day.

The Cake Boss star, 42, remembered his late dad, Bartolo Valastro Sr., in a touching Instagram tribute Sunday, writing that he takes his memory with him everywhere he goes.

“He is always in my heart. Without him, I wouldn’t be who I am, what I am, and where I am today,” Valastro wrote. “His guidance and love molded me to value family, hard work, and loyalty. Happy Father’s Day to him and to all of the dads out there who take the time to teach what matters most.”

He also included a slideshow of photos that featured him working alongside his father as a teenager at the family’s bakery, a picture of the elder Valastro celebrating what appears to be Buddy’s first birthday, and a photo of him hard at work decorating a wedding cake.

Valastro, a father of four, tells PEOPLE that celebrating the annual holiday is never easy for him.

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“I’m not going to lie, Father’s Day is always tough for me. Although everything gets easier with time, that deep-seated nagging feeling of missing your dad just never really went away for me,” he says. “I take the day off to spend quality time with my family, no matter what. It’s what helps.”

This year, Valastro says he and wife Lisa took their kids Sofia, 16, Bartolo “Buddy” III, 14, Marco, 12, and Carlo, 8, on the water to mark the occasion.

Buddy Valastro and son Buddy
| Credit: Courtesy Buddy Valastro

“Lisa made this huge breakfast for the whole family before we took a long, relaxing boat ride along the Jersey shore with the dogs,” he says. “It was exactly what I needed.”

Lisa wished her husband a happy Father’s Day on Instagram with a sweet slideshow of photos.

“Happy Fathers Day to my hubby @buddyvalastro the best daddy and husband anyone could ever ask for!!! We love you so much!!!! Now what would you like us to make you for breakfast???” she captioned the post.

The reality star’s father died in 1994, three weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer at age 54. Carlo’s Bake Shop, the family’s Hoboken, New Jersey bakery, was passed on to his son, who has since expanded it into an empire.

Valastro’s mother, Mary, died in June 2017 at age 69 after a long battle with ALS.