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    Pols laud Democratic strategist at funeral with tears and laughter

    Chuck Campion died last week at 62 of complications from surgery.
    Chuck Campion died last week at 62 of complications from surgery.

    The Massachusetts Democratic political universe gathered Wednesday in Boston for the funeral of Chuck Campion, a veteran political operative who brought enthusiasm to campaigns local and presidential and was celebrated for his unbounded generosity, his joyful devotion to his family, his resilience in battles with health ailments, and, as the Rev. Thomas A. Mahoney put it, for being “a beautiful example of a graceful and dignified life in a very imperfect world.”

    Campion, who died last week at 62 of complications from surgery, was remembered for his acts of kindness, humor, loyalty to family, friends, and the politicians he worked with, and his astute political sense, honed on the streets of Boston from a young age.

    John F. Kerry remembered getting a phone call from Campion in 2003 as the then-US senator was ramping up his presidential campaign. Campion asked if Kerry would be attending the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast and political roast in South Boston. It was in March, not long after the Globe had written about Kerry’s paternal grandparents’ Jewish roots, and as Kerry was recuperating from a radical prostatectomy.


    “ ‘Chuck, I just had my prostate removed. I’m in bed. I think they’ll understand if I’m not there,’ ” Kerry, in a eulogy, recalled saying.

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    “Buddy,” Kerry said Campion replied, “if you don’t show up, you’re going to feel like somebody just put your prostate back in!”

    The hundreds in attendance at St. Cecilia church in the Back Bay roared with laughter.

    “Chuck, as always, had a point,” Kerry said. “But the good thing about Chuck is he also had a plan.”

    Campion negotiated Kerry’s surprise appearance at the breakfast, and crafted his line, which made national news and won over the tough crowd in Southie: “Who said I don’t have the matzo balls to be here?”


    Among the many political, business, and media heavyweights at Campion’s funeral were US Senator Edward J. Markey, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, US Representative Joe Kennedy III, Bank of America vice chairwoman Anne M. Finucane, MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle, longtime Democratic operative Thomas J. Keady Jr., and former lieutenant governor Thomas P. O’Neill III.

    Up-and-coming pols and political pros whom Campion mentored were there, too. They included state Senator Eric P. Lesser and Mike Firestone, Attorney General Maura Healey’s chief of staff.

    Campion was a cofounder of the powerhouse firm Dewey Square Group, and his colleagues were out in force, among them Lynda Tocci, Charles A. Baker III, Michael Whouley, Paul M. Pezzella, and Mary Anne Marsh.

    The robust crowd, and the many clergymen who took part in the service, drew huzzahs from those remembering Campion, who had reveled in crafting countless successful events during his long career in politics.

    “This morning,” Kerry said, “Chuck is looking down on St. Cecilia’s and, I’m pretty sure, he just turned to St. Peter, and he said, ‘Hey buddy, what a turnout. Look at it — nine priests!’ ”

    Joshua Miller can be reached at