Joseph Laroche, born in 1886 in Haiti, embarked on a journey of hope and opportunity that tragically ended on that fateful night of April 15, 1912.
Laroche, a highly educated engineer fluent in French, Creole, and English, struggled to find employment that matched his qualifications in France. Despite his talents, he was met with low wages and hostility from employers. Determined to provide a better life for his pregnant wife, Juliette and their two young daughters, Laroche set his sights on Haiti, where his uncle, President Cincinnatus Leconte, promised him a prestigious professorship in mathematics.
With tickets in hand for the ship La France to Haiti, the couple faced a heartbreaking dilemma. The ship's policy would separate parents and children, forcing them to make a fateful decision. In an act of love and sacrifice, they exchanged their first-class tickets for second-class on the RMS Titanic, ensuring they could stay together as a family. Their decision was motivated by the well-being of their daughters, one of whom often fell ill. Their plan was to reach New York and then continue their journey to Haiti on another ship.
However, destiny had a different path in store for them. The tragic events of that infamous night forever altered their lives. Juliette and one of their daughters, Simonne, managed to secure spots on a lifeboat, while Laroche's last known actions were focused on ensuring the safety of their second daughter, Louise. After ensuring his family's well-being, he promised Juliette they would soon be reunited. Tragically, Laroche's body was never recovered. At just 25 years old, he had perished.
Juliette now a widow and pregnant, found herself alone in New York after the RMS Carpathia rescued Titanic survivors and brought them to the city. Overwhelmed by grief and unable to speak English, she was left without money, as it had drowned with her beloved husband. Enduring three challenging weeks in the city, she eventually embarked on a journey back to France with her daughters on another ship.
Months later, Juliette gave birth to a son whom she named Joseph after his late father. She chose to keep the story of their survival buried deep within her heart and instructed her children to remain silent about the events and the existence of their father. She dedicated herself to protecting and managing the lives of her daughters, never allowing them out of her sight until her last breath.
The story of Joseph Laroche is a powerful testament that expands our understanding of the Titanic. Laroche's quest for a better life abroad exposes the social factors that displaced him from the country where he had built a family. For decades, his presence aboard the Titanic remained overlooked, and it is only through diligent historical research that his story has gained the recognition it deserves. It is essential that we acknowledge and honor the life of Joseph Laroche. Let us ensure that his story is never overlooked again.