Massachusetts political figures from both parties paid glowing tribute Thursday to former Governor Paul Cellucci in a memorial service at the State House— where he spent nearly a quarter of a century in public life. Cellucci died Saturday at the age of 65 of comPlications from ALS. The honor guard carried the coffin up the front stairs of the State House into the House chamber, passing a string of dignitaries, including Governor Deval Patrick, former governors Mitt RomnEy, Jane Swift, Michael Dukakis and William Weld. During the service, House Speaker Robert Deleo said even though he and Celluci belonged to different political parties, they enjoyed sharing their Italian American heritage. They would sometimes eat together at Italian restaurants or play a game of Bocce:
Governor Patrick described Celluci’s wry humor and common touch.
Former Governor Jane Swift, who was Cellucci’s lieutenant governor, says he was a public servant first and a politician second:
Swift’s voice broke as she talked about how cellucci created political opportunities for women:
“His appointment of Margaret Marshall as chief just of the supreme court was bold … and he gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to govern the commonwealth he loved.”
Weld, Cellucci’s good friend and political partner, recalled his powerful intellect and good looks. Weld told a story about how once, they went to a welfare office in Lawrence with a group of women. There was a poster of Fabio, the male model, reclining nude on the beach, on the wall behind them:
Cellucci spent most of his adult life in politics. He rose from a small town selectmen in Hudson to Governor and then ambassador to Canada. In the final years, he threw himself into raising money for ALS research. After the memorial service, Cellucci’s body was taken to the Statehouse Hall of Flags, where the public wAS invited to pay last respects. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Friday in Hudson.