MOSS BLUFF, La. (AP) — A former Louisiana state lawmaker and his wife died the same day from complications of COVID-19.
“Married 60 years, it is no surprise — and brings us great comfort -– they met our Lord and Savior nearly hand-in-hand,” the obituary said.
“After 60 years together one could not be without the other so they traveled one last trip to paradise where they will be together forever,” daughter Toni Stelly Hebert, one of their three surviving children, wrote on Facebook.
A memorial ceremony will be held Thursday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles.
Vic Stelly, a Republican for most of his time in the Legislature who switched to no party affiliation near the end of his four House terms, later was a member of Louisiana’s higher education policy board. He was 79. Terry Bass Stelly was 80.
Friends and family described them as inseparable, The Advocate reported.
“You don’t see marriages like that too often anymore,” state Sen. Ronnie Johns, a Republican from Sulphur, told the newspaper. “At first it shocked me that they both died the same day, but as I looked back at how they lived their lives and how they felt about each other, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
The Stellys met at Northwestern State University and married during Vic Stelly’s sophomore year, the obituary said. Johns noted that Stelly played quarterback for the football team.
After graduating, Stelly taught and coached at high schools in Baton Rouge, then became an assistant coach at McNeese State. After that, he spent 25 years as an insurance agent in Moss Bluff while Terry Stelly worked as a legal secretary to the district attorney, the obituary said.
Johns told The American Press that Stelly taught him how to be an effective lawmaker by working with others.
“He was never an obstructionist, but always a coalition builder,” Johns said. “His advice to me was to always ‘Do the right thing,’ and success would come my way.”
As a state lawmaker, Stelly was known for a tax swap plan approved in a 2002 constitutional change. The “Stelly Plan” eliminated sales taxes on groceries and residential utilities in exchange for increased income taxes on middle- and upper-income earners.
“He didn’t do it for Vic Stelly. He did it for the state, because he sincerely believed that education needed a stable source of funding, healthcare needed a stable source of funding and the state would benefit from that,” retired Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach, who joined the legislature with Stelly, told KPLC-TV.
Many parts of the plan were later dismantled.
“People say the ‘Stelly Plan’ is no more, well the ‘Stelly Plan’ still exists” retired state Sen. Blade Morrish told the station. “The legislature can bring back those portions of the ‘Stelly Plan’, they can bring them back tomorrow. It was visionary then, it is visionary today and it works. That was his greatest accomplishment in my opinion.”
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