Former Mass. Gov. Paul Cellucci Dies Of Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Former Massachusetts Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci has died at his home after a five-year battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was 65 years old.

Cellucci was governor of Massachusetts from 1997 to 2001. He died Saturday in his Hudson home of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable degenerative neurological disease. Prior to his tenure as governor, he served eight years as lieutenant governor and four years as acting governor and then governor. Cellucci also served four years as US ambassador to Canada during the George W. Bush administration. He never lost an election.

“My life was never quite the same when I matched up with Paul Cellucci to have a cup of coffee in 1989,” said Gov. William F. Weld, a close personal and political friend of Cellucci. “It was clear to me that we had a similar political philosophy, and everyone I knew who knew Paul Cellucci absolutely swore by the guy. We agreed to run as a team, and we governed as a team. I don’t think people realized quite how important Paul Cellucci was personally to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the 1990s.”

Cellucci served as lieutenant governor from 1991 to 1999, and became the Acting Governor in 1997 when Weld resigned. He was elected as governor on in November 1998, and began his tenure on January 7, 1999. He chose Jane Swift as his running mate and, when he resigned from his post in April 2001 to become the US ambassador to Canada, Swift became the acting governor, and the only woman to lead the state of Massachusetts.

Cellucci also elevated Margaret H. Marshall to be the first female chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. Under Marshall, gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in November 2003.

A memorial service will be held for the former governor later this week in the State House chambers, and a church service will be held at St. Michael’s Church in Hudson. The dates for both services will be announced later.

Paul Cellucci’s body will lie in state at the Hall of Flags.

[Photo credit: WEBN-TV / Flickr]