GONZALES — Former Ascension Parish President J. Harold Marchand, 62, died Tuesday night of a massive heart attack as friends and family remembered him for his outsized personality and willingness to help others.
Randy Anderson, Marchand’s former chief administrative officer, said Wednesday that Marchand collapsed Tuesday around lunchtime just as a business meeting was ending in St. Rose.
He was pronounced dead later that night at Ochsner Health Center in Metairie.
Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez ordered flags flown at half-staff Wednesday in honor of his old political adversary and personal friend.
A onetime sheriff’s deputy and parish justice of the peace, Marchand was recalled for his boundless interests, spiritual side and focus on helping those in need. When he was working as a Farm Bureau insurance agent, he was known to pay the premiums of clients who could not afford them.
“He left a mark on our parish, and more importantly he left a mark on a lot of individuals, including me, about the importance of reaching out to other people,” said Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley, a friend of Marchand since both were young boys.
Marchand was the first LSU football signee from East Ascension High School, his niece, Dana Fontenot said, and was senior class president in 1969, a year that produced many of Ascension’s past and current leaders.
Those leaders included Wiley and state Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales.
Three decades later, in fall 1999, Marchand unseated two-term Parish President Martinez with a promise to unify the parish.
Marchand ran into a divided council that stymied his agenda, lasting one term from 2000 to 2004.
Marchand was one of 12 children — a 13th older sister died when he was young — and grew up in his father, Dalton’s, restaurant businesses, instilled with a strong work ethic. His father was a former Gonzales alderman.
Marchand, who grew up in the Prairieville area, was living and working in St. Rose for the last several years, Anderson said.
Fontenot said her family appreciates the outpouring of support for a “very well loved man.”
“He was always God, family, community. That’s what he believed in,” she said.
Marchand is also survived by two sons, David and Micah; four grandchildren; and his longtime girlfriend with whom he was engaged, Fontenot said.
A wake is planned at Ourso Funeral Home in Gonzales from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday. A service follows viewing 9 to 11 a.m. Friday at The Church in St. Amant.