By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Hudson – Argeo Paul Cellucci, the former Massachusetts governor and ambassador to Canada, passed away June 8 after a prolonged battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Cellucci, 65, had been diagnosed with the disease five years ago but chose to go public with the information in January 2011, he said at the time, to promote the need for ALS research.
Soon after, he collaborated with UMass Medical School (UMMS) Chancellor Michael F. Collins, MD, and renowned UMMS physician-researcher Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, in launching the UMass ALS Champion Fund to support ALS research in Brown's lab at the medical school. According to the school, the campaign has raised nearly $2 million under Cellucci's leadership.
Cellucci started out his political career as a selectman in Hudson while attending Boston College Law School. He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. He graduated from law school in 1973 and continued to serve in the Reserves, earning an honorable discharge at the captain's rank in 1978. He served terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate.
He served as lieutenant governor under former Gov. William Weld from 1990 -1997 and was sworn in as acting governor to complete the remainder of Weld's term when Weld was named as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Cellucci was then elected as governor the next year, a post he served until 2001, when President George W. Bush named him U.S. ambassador to Canada.
After leaving that post, Cellucci returned to the private sector, eventually joining Weld at the government relations consulting group ML Strategies.
Joseph Durant, chair of the Hudson Board of Selectmen commented on Cellucci's passing.
“Paul Cellucci was a wonderful man and I am honored to have known him. He rose to great heights but never forgot his roots. His friends and family will miss him greatly and his town will be a very?sad place,” he said. “He was a brave man who fought a valiant, courageous and public fight against a terrible disease and continued to add to his legacy.”
Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant also released a statement.
“My wife Susan and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Gov. Cellucci and wish to express our utmost condolences to his wife Jan and their daughters,” Vigeant said. “Gov. Cellucci was a dedicated public servant whose leadership was shaped by the compassion of his heart and the strength of his principles.
“More importantly, Paul Cellucci was a devoted father and husband. Just last week I corresponded with Gov. ?Cellucci to congratulate him on the birth of his newest grandchild. His family meant the world to him and were a limitless source of happiness and joy.
“Our state and our country are better for having had Paul's service, leadership, and kindness.”
Bob Yesue, a lifelong friend of the former governor, recalled that Cellucci was always true to his principles.
“He always treated everyone the same, no matter where they were from or what side of the aisle they were on,” Yesue said. “And he was always a “Hudsonsite,” he never forgot where he came from.”
“When he was diagnosed with ALS, he fought it with the same dignity and composure that he did every political fight,” he noted.
“He was a great friend and a great human being. I always told my kids, if you were lucky to have found one true great friend in life like Paul, then you were very lucky indeed,” he added.
Residents of Hudson also shared their thoughts on the Community Advocate's Facebook page regarding the man many called not only “governor” but “friend.”
“He was a great man and he will be missed so much”; “he was good for the state and he accomplished so much in his short years”; and “a wonderful friend, father and great governor, too. A “real people” person,” were some of the comments.
Cellucci is survived by his wife, Jan, their two daughters, Kate and Anne, and four grandchildren, Rhys, Gabriel, Francesca, and Lucia.