The longtime president of the Pointe Coupee Parish police jury and first woman to serve on that legislative body died of cancer early Thursday.
Melanie Bueche, who represented District 6, was described by family and fellow jurors as a woman with strong conviction and unconditional love for the parish where she served in elective office for 21 years.
"That's why her constituents kept re-electing her," her husband, J.A. Bueche, said Thursday. "People in today's time just aren't as loyal as she was. She's just exceptional. "
Bueche, 71, had been a teacher for many years before stepping into local politics when she was first elected to represent District 6 on the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury in October 1995.
Her district includes Lakeland, Oscar, the rural Livonia area and parts of Maringouin near the Iberville Parish line.
In January 2004, Bueche was selected by her fellow jurors to serve as vice president of the Police Jury before being appointed as president of the jury in Aug. 2005 -- a position she held for 11 years.
She and her husband of 54 years have two sons, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
They were high-school sweethearts, according to her husband, who said her passing has left “just a hole in my heart."
Bueche had been battling cancer for several years. The disease had temporarily gone into remission before flaring up again and causing a sharp decline in her health the last six months.
"It all became overwhelming for her," J.A. Bueche said. "I wish I could have taken the pain away."
But despite how weak she had gotten in the days leading up to her death, Bueche was still tending to her duties as the jury's president. Something fellow juror Justin Cox deeply admired.
Before the start of nearly every meeting of the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury, its president, Melanie Bueche, recites a prayer or shares ki…
"It was truly a remarkable display of courage, grace and love until the very end," Cox said in a prepared statement Thursday. "I don't think I've come across anyone else that has the love for Pointe Coupee as she did."
Other jurors voiced similar sentiments.
Jury vice president Kyle Olinde, who has known Bueche and her family nearly 50 years, recalled a time when he used to build houses in the parish with her husband and one of her sons. He said Bueche would also be there, doing as much work as the guys and then turning around and whipping up a quick lunch for them to eat during the middle of the day.
"That lady was something else," Olinde said. "I look back on it now and think: ‘She was special.’ "
Juror Cornell Dukes said it was an honor to serve with Bueche and spoke on how much she will be missed.
"She has returned to her Father's soil. However, her beautiful petals of love, willingness to work with others, thoughtfulness, and peaceful spirit will reside with our parish and myself forever," Dukes said in his statement.
Parish Attorney John Wayne Jewell said the Police Jury will have 20 days to appoint someone to finish out the remaining time of Bueche's term, which ends Dec. 2018.
Jewell said the person must live in Bueche's district.
J.A. Bueche said his wife asked that he be allowed to sit in her place on the jury as the District 6 representative — a common practice in many local municipalities.
"A couple of the jurors I talked to said they wouldn't have a problem with that," he said.
Funeral services for Bueche will be Monday, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 12364 LA Highway 416, Lakeland. Viewing will be from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. with mass beginning at 11:00 a.m.
Funeral arrangements are pending.