Ray Roch, a longtime figure in fresh produce in Rhode Island, died Thursday,
May 20, at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence following a stroke. He was 75.
Mr. Roch's foray into fresh produce began when his father gave him a room
in his West Warwick, RI, grocery store to sell fresh produce. Mr. Roch
eventually ran the business, and today there remains the store in West
Warwick — now called Roch’s Fruit & Produce Inc. — and Roch’s Produce
store in nearby Narragansett, RI.
Mr. Roch’s son, Ray Roch Jr., launched and owns the Narragansett store.
Ray Roch Jr. told The Produce News that his father was "the most generous
man I ever met."
Mr. Roch lived a mile from Roch’s Fruit & Produce Inc. Even in retirement, he
kept a close watch on the store.
Watching the store “was his routine,” Mr. Roch Jr. said.
The former Providence Fruit & Produce Warehouse Co. building once housed
the Providence Fruit & Produce Terminal Market, which disbanded in the
1990s. Throughout his life, Mr. Roch was a regular among early-morning
shoppers on the terminal.
An avid Boston Red Sox fan, in 1978 Mr. Roch lost a bet to a longtime friend
and New York Yankees fan when the Yankees rallied from 14.5 games behind
the Red Sox to tie them for first place, and then proceeded to beat the Red
Sox in a one-game playoff for the American League pennant. For losing the
bet, Mr. Roch climbed inside a casket and was led around the Providence Fruit
& Produce Terminal by three pallbearers wearing Yankees uniforms.
The baseball theme carried over to Mr. Roch’s own funeral: He was buried in
a casket adorned with Boston Red Sox colors and insignia, marketed by Major
Baseball and sports in general were passions for Mr. Roch throughout his life.
He was a longtime sponsor of the Pawtuxet Valley Semi-fast Pitch Softball
League and the Pawtuxet Valley Businessmen’s Bowling League, as well as
many other West Warwick youth sports teams and organizations.
In 2007 the West Warwick High School Athletic Hall of Fame honored him with
the Amby Smith Distinguished Service Award.
Mr. Roch was a longtime member of the Rhode Island Food Dealers
Association, a member of the Board of Incorporators of Centreville Bank and
an avid card player.
Jay Koehler, general a manager of Roch’s Fruit & Produce Inc. in West
Warwick, began working for Mr. Roch in 1978.
“He was a huge supporter of sports,” Mr. Koehler said of his boss. “He used to
work around my baseball schedule with Babe Ruth League games.”
Mr. Koehler said that Mr. Roch was “dedicated to his employees and
Andrew Sigal, president of fresh produce distributor Tourtellot & Co. Inc., said
that Mr. Roch was an “old guard kind of guy” who played hard and worked
“Ray was a wonderful man, honorable and generous,” Mr. Sigal said. “He gave
back a ton to his community.”
Mr. Roch is survived by his wife of 52 years, Denise (St. Jean) Roch; daughters
Elizabeth M. McCarthy, Ann Marie L. Roch and Therese L. Golick; son, Ray
Roch Jr.; brothers Andre Roch and Gilles Roch; sisters Gertrude Gauvin and
Collette Benoit; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. He was
predeceased by siblings Gerard Roch, Donald Roch and Marcel Roch.