Rhode Islanders Pay Tribute to Nuala Pell - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather


Rhode Islanders Pay Tribute to Nuala Pell

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by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis


Nuala Pell is being remembered as the first lady of a generation in Rhode Island politics, helping shape her husband Claiborne's 36 years in the U.S. Senate.

"Everything she did was done with a sense of dedication to her family, to her country. She inspired people," said Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), who succeeded Senator Pell.

"She was an absolute asset to Senator Pell through his whole life; through his politics and his policy," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

And one of the causes she and her husband championed, the Pell Grants for college students.

"Have a chance to go to college. Everybody who wanted to should be able to," said Nuala Pell in a 2009 ABC6 News interview.

ABC6 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "Nuala Pell isn't just being remembered as a popular political spouse, she was also very influential in her own right, in the areas of arts and education."

She gave very generously to Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, and the arts scene in Newport.

"And that's important now a days, with the economy the way it is, people – especially elected officials – they tend to forget to support the arts," said Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena

Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena is a long time Pell family friend. He was emcee when Nuala's grandson Clay Pell announced his run for governor, just over two months ago:

"She seemed to be fine. You know we were joking when he grandson was talking, and I even said to her, you know I said, 'You know your husband's looking down at him, you know that, right?' And she started laughing. She said yes. So you know it's sad. It's a sad day for the Pell family, but I think it's a sad day for the state," Mayor Polisena said.

Nuala Pell was 89 years old.

Her funeral is at 11 a.m. Monday at Trinity Church in Newport.



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