- Associated Press - Sunday, June 9, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Just before former Massachusetts Gov. Argeo PaulCellucci announced publicly that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he told the chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School that he was determined to do something to turn the diagnosis into a positive.

In the last years of his life, he threw himself into efforts to raise money for research, ultimately helping to bring in nearly $2 million.

Mr. Cellucci died at his home in Hudson, Mass., on Saturday from complications of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. He was 65.

“He knew this wasn’t going to help him, but he was determined that he could help others by working together with us,” said Dr. Michael Collins, chancellor of the UMass Medical School. “In many ways this was the act of a selfless public servant, right up to the end.”

Mr. Cellucci spent most of his adult life in politics, starting at the local level in his hometown of Hudson. In more than three decades, he never lost an election. He was a typically moderate New England Republican, fiscally conservative yet middle of the road on many social issues.

He was elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with one-time rival William Weld in 1990 and became acting governor in 1997 when Mr. Weld resigned to pursue an ambassadorship. Mr. Cellucci was elected governor in his own right in 1998, and in 2001 the Bush administration made him U.S. ambassador to Canada.

“This son of Hudson, Mass., was a close and loyal friend, a superb public servant, and a devoted family man — and our admiration for the way he served throughout his life, and fought a dreaded disease at the end, knows no bounds,” former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush said in a joint statement Saturday.

Mr. Cellucci was a longtime friend of the elder Mr. Bush, whose Massachusetts presidential campaigns he led, and was one of the first GOP governors to stoke the younger Mr. Bush’s presidential ambitions.

He was born in Hudson, a working-class town where his father owned car dealerships. He graduated from Boston College, where he served in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, and received a degree from Boston College Law School in 1973.

He was still in school when he first was elected to the Hudson Charter Commission in 1970. He went on to serve on the Hudson Board of Selectmen and in both the state House and state Senate.

Mr. Cellucci and Mr. Weld started as rivals before teaming up to run as a GOP ticket in 1990.

Mr. Cellucci‘s personality was more reserved than Mr. Weld‘s, but he played a much larger role than a typical lieutenant governor and was credited with guiding Mr. Weld, a former federal prosecutor and political neophyte, through the political process.

Mr. Weld often called Mr. Cellucci his “co-governor” and relied on him to work with Democrats and fellow Republicans in the Legislature to help push the administration’s agenda.

PaulCellucci was simply one of the finest human beings I have ever met,” Mr. Weld said in a statement. “I happened to know him in the realm of politics and government, but anyone who knew him in any other arena would have found the same man: a person of rock-hard integrity, keen intelligence, considerable humor, abundant compassion, and deep devotion to family and country.”

After fending off a nasty primary challenge by state Treasurer Joe Malone in the 1998 GOP primary, Mr. Cellucci faced state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger in the November election, which he won with 51 percent of the vote.

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