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(NECN/AP) - Massachusetts political figures of both parties paid glowing tribute Thursday to former Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci - a Republican who never lost an election in a Democratic-leaning state - in the building where he spent nearly a quarter of a century in public life.
Cellucci, 65, died Saturday of complications from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
A misty rain fell as the American flag-draped casket bearing Cellucci's body was carried up the long front steps of the Statehouse by honorary state police pallbearers. Moments earlier, as a hush fell over normally busy Beacon Street, a motorcade that had begun about 40 miles to the west in Cellucci's hometown of Hudson ended with the arrival of the hearse in front of the capital.
Gov. Deval Patrick and former Govs. Mitt Romney, Jane Swift, Michael Dukakis and William Weld were among those who joined Cellucci's widow, Jan, and other family members and friends at a memorial service in the House of Representatives. Cellucci - well-liked and admired on both sides of the aisle - began his political career in that chamber in 1977.
The former governor revealed in January 2011 that he had ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
He devoted much of his remaining time to efforts to find a cure for the progressive neurodegenerative condition, helping raise nearly $2 million for the cause.
Michael Collins, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, recalled when Cellucci broke the news to him that he had ALS and wished to create a fund to support research into the debilitating disease.
"For the governor, this was personal, not political," said Collins, who recalls the energy Cellucci threw into the ALS Champions Fund even as his own health slowly deteriorated.
"Paul Cellucci knew he was about to embark on his final campaign," Collins said. "His final acts were offered in selfless public service."
Collins remembered Cellucci as a good man. He said there was not one sign of weakness in the strength of Cellucci’s character or his commitment to public service.
After the memorial service, Cellucci's body was taken to the Statehouse Hall of Flags, where members of the public were invited to pay last respects.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for Friday at St. Michael Catholic Church in Hudson.
Watch the attached video to hear more from Chancellor Collins.
(Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.)