For the past three years, East Feliciana Parish Coroner Michael “Mike” DeJohn Sr. quietly battled pancreatic cancer.
DeJohn lost that battle on Friday when he died in a local hospital from complications related to the terminal illness.
When he was first diagnosed, his wife Laura said doctors gave him only three months to live, to which DeJohn responded, “I don’t think so,” she said.
He was buried Monday in Clinton. He would have celebrated his 66th birthday on Wednesday.
“He loved his job; he never complained,” Laura DeJohn said of her husband of 10 years Tuesday. “Most of the family didn’t know he was sick. He was working right up until the day he was admitted into the hospital. He wanted to make sure his patients were taken care of before him.”
DeJohn served as East Feliciana Parish’s coroner for 23 years.
His wife said DeJohn ran unopposed during his entire tenure as the parish’s coroner.
Laura DeJohn, who worked alongside her husband as the parish’s assistant coroner, said he had worked for the parish’s previous coroner during the 1980s while he maintained his own private medical practice in Baker, Clinton and briefly in Jackson.
DeJohn was the father to four children and three stepchildren, and the couple shared seven grandchildren.
He served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1960s before graduating from LSU then going on to attend medical school.
Larry Beauchamp, vice president of the parish’s Police Jury, said DeJohn fit the part of a country doctor.
As well as working with him in his capacity as the parish coroner, Beauchamp also was one of DeJohn’s patients.
“He really helped the parish by keeping costs at a minimum,” Beauchamp said of DeJohn’s role as coroner. “He wasn’t your typical doctor. I never saw him in a white coat — just blue jeans and cowboy shirts.”
DeJohn’s family and friends say he loved celebrating Mardi Gras and was also a pilot who enjoyed flying, deep-sea fishing and hunting.
Laura DeJohn was sworn in as chief deputy to assume most of her husband’s duties as coroner until a special election is held Nov. 4. Whoever is elected will complete the remainder of DeJohn’s term, which ends in March 2016.
“I hope to continue on after whomever takes over,” she said Tuesday. “This has just been our way of life for the last 10 years.”