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|Two deaths in two days|
Two friends recently died within 36 hours of one another.
Elliot D'Evereux Coleman IV was 42 years old. Dewey Lee Fletcher Jr. was 43.
Coleman and I grew up together in Concordia Parish. We attended the same school, Huntington, a small private school born during the height of integration. We belonged to the same church, First Presbyterian.
Coleman and I were fraternity brothers at LSU as well. Once a Sigma Chi, always a Sigma Chi. At least that's what we were told back then.
Coleman took the difficult route in college. He worked his way through school and eventually earned a degree in engineering. Coleman worked for a company called Johnson Controls at the time of his death. Apparently he was doing quite well for himself.
Coleman was one of most intelligent individuals I've ever known. Far smarter than me, though I realize that's not saying much.
He was smart, though. He was eccentric, too, which would help explain why he spent much of his private time working on his old hot-rod or at Star Home Place in Morehouse Parish where his ability to blacksmith was in demand.
Though Coleman and I had not had much contact with one another over the past 15 years, I kept up with him through one of my sisters, who lives at Lake Bruin in Tensas Parish.
That's where Coleman lived. He died there, too, on Oct. 1, in a senseless accident involving his hot-rod. Senseless would be an understatement.
I suppose Coleman was drawn to the laid-back atmosphere that Tensas Parish offers. I suppose he was drawn to Tensas, too, because that's where his close friends lived. He had family ties to the parish as well. His great grandfather, Elliot Coleman, was sheriff in Tensas for years. That's the same Elliot Coleman who was one of Huey Long's bodyguards when Long was assassinated.
When Coleman died, I thought about the last time I saw him. It was at Lake Bruin on the 4th of July a couple of years ago. He was in his ski boat with his brother, Barham. I almost didn't recognize them. I guess we've all aged to some degree.
Like Coleman, Fletcher was extremely intelligent. He could have been an engineer if that's what he had wanted in life.
Instead, Fletcher loved politics. He lived it.
Fletcher's goal in life was to serve in Congress. He came close to winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 when his boss, Congressman John Cooksey gave up the 5th District seat in the House to oppose U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Our plans were in place. Fletcher would succeed Cooksey in the House and Cooksey would move to the Senate. I would join them in Washington.
It was a perfect fit, though the thought of Fletcher and Cooksey serving together in the Congress scared the hell out of people who made their lot in life manipulating the political process for personal gain.
It wasn't to be, though.
Fletcher didn't take his loss in the congressional race lightly, but in time, he recovered to build a successful business in the public relations/political consulting arena. Cooksey returned to his medical practice.
Yet, Fletcher never took his eye off the 5th District congressional seat. He had plans to run again.
Cancer altered those plans.
When Fletcher was diagnosed with a Sarcoma, he approached it like he approached everything else in life. He was determined to win.
That wasn't to be either.
About an hour before Fletcher died on Sept. 30 I visited him at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe. Walking into his hospital room was a stark reminder of the day my father died.
Fletcher was holding on, fighting to live. That's how daddy died Jan. 15, 2006.
Besides daddy, Fletcher was my closest friend, and I miss him terribly.
Besides being extremely intelligent, Coleman and Fletcher shared something else in common. They lived life to the fullest. Idle time was not to be wasted.
I suppose we all could learn something from that.