HUDSON, Mass. (AP) — Former Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci was remembered Friday for his kindness and the courage he showed facing the disease that ultimately took his life.
Hundreds of mourners filled a funeral Mass on Friday at St. Michael Parish Church in Hudson, where Cellucci grew up and lived his entire life. A contingent of state troopers carried Cellucci's coffin past attendees, including former governors Mitt Romney and William Weld and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Cellucci died June 8 at age 65, about two and a half years after he disclosed he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
The Republican was praised at a Statehouse ceremony Thursday for his decency and willingness to work across the aisle in his heavily Democratic state. But on Friday, the Rev. Ronald Calhoun said that the service in the church where Cellucci once served as an altar boy would focus on Cellucci's personal legacy.
"It is the private Paul that we come to grieve and bid farewell to today," he said.
Cellucci was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1977 and never lost another election. He became governor in 1997 and served in that role until 2001, when he became ambassador to Canada. Hudson remained his home through every stage of his career.
"He would always tell me, 'Each politician needs a home base,'" said his daughter Kate Garnett Cellucci.
During Friday's service, Cellucci's two daughters said their father treated all people the same, whether he met them at Dunkin' Donuts or the White House. He always looked for the good in everything and everybody, finding it impossible to leave bad tips for bad waitresses, or even find fault in any movie he saw, they said.
"At the end of the day, he really just loved people," said his daughter Anne Cellucci Adams.
His daughters recalled Cellucci as uncommonly devoted to family, which included four grandchildren and his wife, Jan, whom he met in high school.
Adams said her father rarely missed her sports games, even coming to her high school junior varsity lacrosse game the day after his gubernatorial election. She joked how the crowd tripled because of his security detail.
His daughters also spoke of how he handled ALS with grace, and even played hide-and-seek with his grandson from his wheelchair.
At the same time, he was determined to do what he could to fight the disease in the time he had left, working diligently to raise money and awareness about ALS through the UMass ALS Champion Fund, they said.
"He could have given up," said Kate Garnett Cellucci. "Instead, he embraced it with courage and dignity."
"He's given me the tools to live," she said. "To live with dignity, kindness of heart, and live by the motto he always told my sister and I: Be nice."