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Sister of late councilwoman says her death should not be used as argument for vaccine hesitancy

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 7:57 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - This week, many will pay their respects to late Lake Charles Councilwoman Mary Morris who died earlier this month from COVID-19 complications.

It’s been a heavy week for those close to Morris, as they prepare to say their final goodbyes to the community matriarch.

Her passing comes at a crucial time in the area’s fight against COVID-19, and her family is using this moment to share more about Mary’s battle with the virus.

”She was passionate about her people and was, above anything, concerned about their well-being,” Morris’ sister Gayle Sledge said.

It’s safe to say the last year of Morris’ life was tough for the longtime public servant and those close to her.

“Mary is gone, but her spirit is with us. And she would not want anyone to go through what she went through,” Sledge said.

Morris’ sister was by her side during her kidney transplant recovery in 2019 and her recent battle with COVID.

“And because her spirit is with us, I want to make sure that I stand on truth,” Sledge said.

Sledge said Morris was on a number of medications following her transplant surgery, which made her battle with COVID that much harder.

“One of the things that the doctors had to battle was: how much rejection medicine do you give her? Because for the white blood cells not to produce antibodies so that her kidney can stay well and healthy. And how much do you allow white blood cells to create the antibodies to fight the virus?” Sledge said.

While in the hospital, Morris, who was fully vaccinated, also developed pneumonia. Sledge said it’s unclear how her sister contracted COVID, but given her complications and the current state of the virus, she didn’t want her sister’s passing to be used in vain.

”I know Mary would not want anyone in the public, or even in the family, to not get vaccinated or to think that her health condition or what happened to her with the complications would be the same for anyone,” Sledge said.

Sledge said Morris battled the virus for 13 days in the hospital before passing away.

A public service is scheduled for Friday at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

RELATED: Funeral service announced for Councilwoman Mary Morris

Sledge said she wants to continue her sister’s vision for District A by temporarily taking over her seat on the city council until an election takes place. She’s written a letter to City Council members and spoke to Mayor Nic Hunter about her interest.

“The people that came out and voted for her understood who Mary was. They knew the platform that she stood for, and I lived with her through that process,” Sledge said. “So, I know what platforms she stood for and what values and principles she stood on. And I want to continue those principles.”

Sledge returned to Lake Charles to live with her sister after her kidney transplant.

Sledge said she wants to continue working on the agenda items that were top priorities for Morris.

“She did not believe in one person’s gain and another person’s loss. She wanted everyone to equally benefit from economic development, and some decisions or some ideas didn’t, necessarily, afford others an opportunity to excel or to advance.”

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