Denis McDonald has died aged 77. He fought in Vietnam and fought a decades-long battle with cancer. | News

Denis Henry McDonald, a New Orleans businessman and former carnival king whose decades-long battle with cancer prompted him to become a one-on-one support system for others suffering from the disease, died Thursday from melanoma at his home in Covington. He was 77 years old.

“Cancer has been a blessing because it has given her the opportunity to do things for others, like taking them to treatments or bringing them meals,” her sister Anne Milling said. “It gave him a ministry to help others on their journey.”

McDonald was founder and president of Mac Dee Textiles Inc., a linen supply company. He has served on the boards of the Bureau of Governmental Research, City Park Improvement Association, Garden District Association, Metropolitan Area Committee and Travelers Aid. He also served as Vice Chairman of the Children’s Hospital Board.

“Denis derived his greatest pleasure from helping others,” said Christian “Christy” Brown, a friend and former Rex. “He deeply touched the lives of so many people.”

McDonald’s battle with cancer began in December 1995, when he was told he had multiple myeloma, a cancer that debilitates and weakens the bones of infection-fighting plasma cells, and that he had at most three years left. to live.

But the Vietnam-hardened naval officer, a veteran of Khe Sanh and the 1968 Tet offensive, fought back with the most aggressive treatment he could find, including two infusions of his own stem cells to produce new blood supply after high-dose chemotherapy. wiped out his failing immune system.

Denis H. McDonald, Rex 2001.

He went into remission in January 1997. In February 2001, two years and four months after he was expected to die, McDonald reigned as Rex.

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“Statistically, I’m not supposed to be here, but I am, so that makes this honor even more meaningful,” he said in an interview at the time. “Too often people give up mentally, and that’s the worst you can do. I hope people realize that you can carry on, that you can live a normal life as much as possible.

He kept coming back for checkups, Milling said. In 2012, after doctors said they had found no evidence of multiple myeloma, they diagnosed melanoma.

McDonald, a New Orleans native, graduated from Tulane University and then spent four years in the Marine Corps. He and his wife, Louise “Lulie” Smither McDonald, lived in New Orleans until last March when they moved to Covington.

In a 2001 interview, McDonald credited his Navy training with helping him fight cancer.

“The Marine Corps taught me that we can go, physically and mentally, further than we realize,” he said. “That’s what you have to do when you have cancer: you have to push a little further. You have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.”

In addition to his wife and sister, survivors include two sons, Hardie Gibson McDonald, of New Iberia, and Paul Delery McDonald, of New Orleans; one brother, Hugh McDonald, of Monroe; and four grandchildren.

Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is responsible for the arrangements, which are incomplete.

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