How Mark and Donnie Wahlberg's Mom Alma Raised Such a Successful Family

Alma Wahlberg, the mother of actors Mark Wahlberg and Donnie Wahlberg, died in April 2021 at age 78. She often appeared on Wahlburgers, the reality series that followed the brothers' restaurant business. She was also instrumental in instilling a work ethic within them that inspired them to follow their dreams.

Wahlberg always talked about her children when she had the opportunity. One of those opportunities came in 2018 when she appeared on the Today Show and talked about how she raised a successful family with nine children. She was only 18 when her first child was born, and admitted she was "learning" as they were. 

"I wanted to give them the love that I always thought I wanted and never got," Alma explained. "I wanted them to know I'm always there. Always, always. I may not like what you're telling me, but I'm there for you and that's it. That's how they all are now. They're there for me." After Wahlberg and her husband Donald Sr. split in 1982, she worked as a bank clerk and nurse's aide. She relied on welfare food to feed her youngest children, even inventing the "craziest meals" for them out of necessity.

Instead of focusing on what the family did not have, Wahlberg embraced her children's ambitions. When she first saw Donnie, 53, perform with New Kids on the Block, she instantly understood how talented he was. "He said to me, 'You know Ma, if it wasn't for you, there probably wouldn't be any New Kids because you encouraged us. You were pushing us,'" Wahlberg told Today. "And I was."

Mark, 52, was a troublemaker. He earned the nickname "monkey" after Wahlberg got him a monkey toy for Christmas. "He loved that thing so much and he dragged it with him everywhere!" she recalled, "I'm gonna get in trouble now!"

One secret to her success as a mom was going with her gut. She was learning along the way, and did what "I felt I had to do," she said. "I didn't know what was the right or wrong thing sometimes because sometimes it got really crazy because there's nine of them all doing different things," Wahlberg said. "As they were getting older, I noticed they were being nicer to each other."

In 2018, Wahlberg said she was proud of her children. She believed they all became "good people" who helped others. "They help people and I couldn't be prouder," she said. Aside from Mark and Donnie, Wahlberg's other children include actor Robert; Wahlburgers chef Paul, Arthur, Michelle, Jim, Tracey, and Robert. Wahlberg's daughter Debbie died in 2004 at age 43.

Mark and Donnie shared tributes to their mother on Instagram, with Donnie even publishing a collection of home movies and scenes from Wahlburgers. "My mom Alma's joy for life, love, and people — combined with a pride in her humble beginnings and refusal to forget where she came from — undoubtedly shaped me into the man that I am," Donnie wrote. "I've often said, if you like anything about me, I got it from Alma. I say that, because it's true."