SHREVEPORT, La. — Gus Mijalis, a Louisiana businessman and close friend of former Gov. Edwin Edwards has died at age 83.

Louisiana news outlets say Mijalis died Tuesday in Shreveport of complications from heart disease. Rose-Neath Funeral Home said the funeral was set for next week.

Mijalis’ business interests include the century-old family-owned Farmers Seafood in Shreveport. He also served on the state Board of Regents for higher education.

But the rotund and jocular Mijalis was best known as a friend, traveling companion and, in the 1980s, a federal court co-defendant — of Edwards, the high-living, four-term governor.

“In my long life, I’ve been fortunate to have many good friends,” Edwards, who last year turned 90, told The Advocate on Wednesday . “None better to me or closer to me than Gus Mijalis. I’ll miss him very much.”

Both men were indicted — and later acquitted — on federal charges involving health care permits. Their 1985 trial in New Orleans was highlighted by the defendants’ out-of-court antics. They included a gathering at a French Quarter bar where Mijalis lumbered to the piano and sang “I Did It My Way.”

Mijalis completed a 20-month sentence in 1997 after pleading guilty in 1995 to bank bribery and fraud charges in an unrelated case.

Despite his scrapes with the law, Mijalis developed a reputation among friends, family and contemporaries for generosity and kindness.

“He had a big heart, and helped a lot of people, Public Service Commission member Foster Campbell, a state senator when Edwards was governor, told The Advocate.

“He never met a stranger,” his nephew, Sammy Mijalis, told The Times of Shreveport . “He would go out of his way to take care of anybody even if he didn’t know that person. That was a big trait of his. He had a gentle heart.”

Visitation is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 5, at the Rose-Neath Funeral Home. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, at St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

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