Cellucci says he is living with ALS

Ex-governor ‘quite well’ despite years of symptoms; asks for privacy

Paul Cellucci praised his physician in Worcester. Paul Cellucci praised his physician in Worcester.
By Brian C. Mooney
Globe Staff / January 7, 2011

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Until yesterday, it was known only to a small circle of friends and family that A. Paul Cellucci, former Massachusetts governor and US ambassador to Canada, had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Cellucci, 62, remains vital and active, friends said, four years after he began experiencing symptoms of the degenerative and incurable neurological disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

In a statement yesterday in which he announced he had the disease, Cellucci called it a “slow case’’ of ALS and said he is under the care of “a world-class physician,’’ Dr. Robert H. Brown Jr., chairman of the neurology department at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. Cellucci and his wife, Jan, reside in Hudson.

“Despite some weaknesses, I am feeling quite well,’’ he said in the statement. “I maintain a full and varied work schedule, love playing with my three grandchildren and attending my son-in-law’s NHL games, regularly complete 6 miles on an exercise bike, and enjoy the movies and dining out with friends. I’m leading a normal, private life.’’

Craig Adams, who plays right wing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, is married to Anne, one of the Celluccis’ two daughters.

Cellucci expressed gratitude for his long career in public service, but said his health is a private matter. “Jan and I choose not to discuss this further and ask that our privacy be respected,’’ the statement concluded.

“There’s no change in his energy level, enthusiasm, or, certainly, his intellect,’’ said Andrew S. Natsios, a friend, political ally of 36 years, and a professor in the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. “You have to search to see any change.’’

Natsios said he, Cellucci, and former White House chief of staff Andrew Card have been working with a Toronto-based company that plans to provide medical diagnostic services in poor countries around the world. All three came up together in Massachusetts politics, starting in the mid-1970s when they served as state representatives. They are also close to deciding which Republican candidate for president they will support in 2012, Natsios said.

Cellucci has remained active in Republican and Bay State politics. He campaigned for many candidates in last fall’s election, including arranging an event with former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on behalf of Republican candidate Jon Golnik in the Fifth Congressional District. Cellucci supported Giuliani’s 2008 candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination; when he dropped out; Cellucci backed John McCain.

Cellucci was undefeated in his political career, winning elections for the state House of Representatives and Senate and for lieutenant governor under William F. Weld in 1990 and 1994. He then succeeded Weld, who resigned in 1997, to become acting governor.

Cellucci was elected governor in his own right the following year, but in 2001 resigned to become ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush. He served until 2005 and wrote a memoir, “Unquiet Diplomacy.’’ about his experience in Canada and US-Canadian relations.

In 2006, Cellucci, a lawyer, joined the firm of McCarter & English, which has offices in Boston and six other Northeast cities.

Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, and a former governor, Mitt Romney, a Republican, both issued statements.

“Governor Cellucci is a valued public servant and friend,’’ Patrick said. “We are holding him and his family close to our hearts at this difficult time.’’

“Paul Cellucci is a friendm and I was deeply saddened to learn of his illness,’’ Romney stated. “. . . My wish is that he enjoys many more good years.’’

Republican national committeeman Ron Kaufman choked up when he told the Massachusetts Republican State Committee last night that “our great former governor Paul Cellucci is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.’’

He went on to joke, “Paul and I and Andy Card and Andy Natsios all started together 1,000 years ago. I think it was the second Lincoln administration. It’s been an emotional few days.’’

He asked the state committee members to pray for Cellucci and his family.

Brian C. Mooney can be reached at