Reflecting on the brotherhood they’ve formed through 35 years as New Kids On The Block bandmates, Donnie Wahlberg has shared how Joey McIntyre helped memorably farewell his late mom, Alma Wahlberg.
Donnie and brother Mark Wahlberg took to social media on April 18 to share the sad news of Alma’s passing. She was 78.
Long before viewers fell for the matriarch’s hilarious, humble and loving nature on the family’s reality series “Wahlburgers”, Alma played an instrumental role in NKOTB’s early years and became loved by “Blockheads” around the globe.
Joey was only 12 when the Wahlbergs came into his life and he considers the clan “family.” After hearing about Alma’s death, he felt Donnie might appreciate having someone he knows perform during the difficult day. So, he texted Donnie offering to perform at the service, which took place at Saint Teresa of Calcutta Church in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
“You sang like an angel and you always do in the most important moments of our friendship and history, but that’s something I’ll never forget,” Donnie said during an Instagram Live session with Joey and his 13-year-old son, Griffin McIntrye, on Friday. “Sitting with my family and some of your family and listening to your voice, I closed my eyes and felt overcome with gratitude and humility.”
“You transformed that day,” Donnie, 51, continued. “Your range as an actor and performer are without limit, but in that moment, it was so transcendent [and] a side of you and tone and grace that was a different gear. It was overwhelming.”
“You guys are family,” added Joey, who also performed at Donnie’s 2014 wedding to Jenny McCarthy. “[Alma’s] an institution. Whatever she did to raise you guys with the faith and confidence to go out into the world and try to make it a happier, better place … she must have done something right!”
In a fitting twist, Joey was joined by Michelle McCourt on guitar – the woman who started the Neighbourhood Children’s Theatre of Boston, where Joey was discovered. Music producer Maurice Starr and friend Mary Alford were searching for a singer to complete NKOTB when Mary found Joey at the theatre in 1985.
Mary also attended Alma’s service. “It’s this beautiful hometown circle,” Joey, 48, reflected. “There’s no [NKOTB] without Alma and I wouldn’t be there without Michelle. And it was so great to hear that Mary spent time with your mom over the last year and was checking in and having great moments with your mom.”
“She couldn’t remember everyone, but she remembered Mary!” added Donnie, who previously shared that Alma had dementia, a condition causing deterioration in memory, thinking and behaviour, that reportedly affects 50 million people worldwide. “Which was touching because she had such a huge impact on our lives.”
In 2019, Donnie and Mark told ET Canada how Alma had found a new zest for life through the family’s restaurants and reality series, after losing a sense of purpose and identity following Donnie’s rise with NKOTB, Mark’s Hollywood success and the 2003 death of her firstborn, Debbie.
“When the restaurant came along, she worked there and started to get the feeling of being herself again,” Donnie explained. “She’s a real people person and retreated a little after my sister passed away, but being at the restaurants — shaking hands, connecting with people — and then being on the show, she found her voice again.”
“This show, the restaurants and all of those things gave her new purpose and it was great that that helped her,” added Mark, 49. “She loved doing the show. Well, she actually complained about it the whole time, but she was so upset when I told her it was ending!”
Both Mark and Donnie were photographed helping carry Alma’s casket during the ceremony.
Donnie thanked Joey for his “elegant and beautiful” role in the service while appearing on the Instagram Live session, which Joey and Griffin held in honour of Netflix’s “Country Comfort”. Griffin plays Dylan in the family sitcom, which also stars Katharine McPhee and Eddie Cibrian.
Joey – who has also starred in sitcoms, including “The McCarthys” – admitted that he and Griffin got into a “few tussles” while he was helping the teen prepare for the series in Los Angeles. “You know that movie, ‘Whiplash’? It felt very similar to that,” Joey joked about the 2014 film about a drummer and his ruthless bandleader. “He’s amazing, but as you can imagine, you want your son to be as prepared as possible.”
He added that the pair also had lots of fun and that Griffin had impressively “stepped up” when it came to taking on his first major television role amid the pandemic.
Donnie’s also a proud dad, with his son Elijah, 19, spending time during the pandemic making music under the name Pink Laces, with an EP Shelf Life released in September and more music on the way. And just like Donnie and Joey are full of love for each other, so are their sons.
“[Griffin’s] loving Elijah’s [song] ‘Paradigm,’” Joey said.
“He’s just shot the video for it,” said Donnie, who pointed out two of NKOTB’s Canadian sales plaques hanging on his wall during the Instagram chat. “It’s really going to be great.”
The “Blue Bloods” star and “Very Scary People” host then teased that he’s been working on “eight minutes of gloriousness for the potential gathering we may have this summer” – alluding to NKOTB’s planned concert at Boston’s iconic Fenway Park. The gig was postponed due to the pandemic, but is now scheduled for July, with Donnie optimistic it can go ahead.
“It’s gonna happen,” Donnie said. “Believe baby, believe!”