By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – When I tell you that former Gov. Paul Cellucci, who passed away this weekend after a battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, was the best Massachusetts has to offer, I mean it in more ways than one.

Cellucci was a product of Irish and Italian parents, a double-Eagle (with degrees from Boston College and BC Law), and a “townie” in the best sense of that word, who spent his whole life in the working-class, melting-pot immigrant town of Hudson and never forgot where he came from.

Before he was a state rep, state senator, lieutenant governor, governor and US ambassador to Canada, Cellucci was a working lawyer. A guy I know told me once about coming to Cellucci for help with a complicated legal case and coming away from it believing he had just met the most honest man he would ever meet.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

It’s hard to sustain a reputation like that in a spin-laden profession like politics, but Cellucci somehow pulled it off.

Yes, he infamously claimed the Big Dig was “on time and on budget” when, we later learned, it most certainly was not, but he believed it when he said it and did his best to correct what would turn out to be by far the biggest mistake of his public life.

And throughout his career Paul Cellucci stuck by his principles as consistently as any political figure I’ve ever known.

He knew how politics worked and wasn’t above making the necessary compromises. But we are a better-educated state, with more opportunity for poor students, a more tolerant state, and safer from gun violence because Cellucci stood up for what he believed in.

Combine that with unquestioned loyalty to friends and family, and now you know why the eulogies are so glowing.

Rest in peace, Gov. Cellucci – you did it the way it should be done.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

Jon Keller