By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Elected officials on both sides of the aisle united Aug. 2 at the Hudson-Concord Elks Lodge 959 to support the final campaign of Argeo Paul Cellucci,? former Massachusetts governor and ambassador to Canada. They were among the runners and walkers who travelled a 5K route in his hometown for the inaugural Gov. Cellucci Tribute Road Race.
After a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Cellucci launched the UMass ALS Champion Fund in 2011. ALS took his life at age 65 in 2013 and his renamed campaign continues as the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund. Over 1,000 supporters registered for this fundraiser.
The race was organized by his widow, Jan, their daughters Kate Garnett Cellucci and Anne Cellucci Adams; the Highland City Striders (HCS), a local running club; and a planning committee.
A committee member was Jim McKenna, HCS president.
“It's a great credit to Jan and the Cellucci family that this road race got so many people in the first year,” he said. “When Gov. Cellucci was diagnosed with ALS, he jumped on this need to get research funds to find a cure. The whole family is picking up where he left off and continuing that mission.”
Former Gov. Bill Weld reflected on his many previous visits to Hudson.
“My daughter, Fran, used to stay in Hudson with Paul and Jan when she was going to summer camp in the area,” he said. “I still choke up every time I see the Route 85 sign.”
Among the walkers was state Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, who serves the district that Cellucci did from 1976 through 1985.
“He was from a time and place where bipartisanship was thought of as a good thing,” she said. “He held Hudson dear and learned a lot from the people.”
Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury ran the race in honor of Cellucci, who she considers a mentor.
“I's pleased that so many people came out today as his legacy of helping others continues,” she said.
Greeting the race participants, Gov. Deval Patrick drew applause when he spoke of Cellucci.
“Paul Cellucci was a Republican who believed he didn's have to hate Democrats to be a good Republican,” he noted. “We could use more public servants like that.”
Finishing first overall in 15:53 was Luke Walker of Somerville, who was impressed with Hudson's tribute to Cellucci.
“It's really cool for people to have a hometown hero,” he said.
Prizes were also given to the largest team of runners or walkers. Of the 62 teams, the largest was Team Skeets with 55. The team was organized by Patty and Dennis Zilembo to show support for Harold “Skeets” Downey, who has ALS.
“Skeets has an unbelievably good attitude for someone who has this disease,” Dennis said. “It's our way while he's alive to show him how much we care and want to fight that disease.”
The race route included several landmarks with connections to Cellucci including Wood Park where the reviewing stand was stationed for a parade on “Cellucci Day” in 1997, when he became governor upon the resignation of Weld. Race participants also passed the former Hudson Catholic High School (HCHS) building where Cellucci graduated in 1966.
Bob Durand, a 1971 HCHS alumnus who served as Cellucci's secretary of environmental affairs, ran the race wearing his “Cellucci Day” T-shirt. That occasion also included a 5K race.
“Paul finished that race two seconds before I did,” Durand shared. “And I's running this race because he was a dear friend of mine and we'se trying to help raise money for ALS research, his last big fight.”