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Raymond Roch was 75

by Brian Gaylord | May 26, 2010
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 League Baseball.

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 business.”

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 hard.

“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.