Monday, February 18, 2008

Mae Roche Raymond Recalls Col. Jack Roche

A distinguished military career honored

Former Naperville resident, Col. John R. “Jack” Roche, USAF, Ret., will be laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA at 11AM, March 24, 2008.

Roche, age 90, a resident of West Palm Beach, FL, died November 4, 2007, at the Good Samaritan Medical Center.

“Jack lived with Bob and me and our girls in a small Shiffler apartment near the train station after he came home from the war,” e-mailed Mae Roche Raymond, Jack’s sister who still lives in Naperville. “He became one of the first investors in John Case's Pfiester Feeds on Ogden Avenue. He made many friends in Naperville during those years between wars. In his last years with the Air Force he was Commander of Hickam Field in Hawaii.”

Roche was born on March 24, 1917, attended St. Ambrose College, named his bombers after St. Ambrose, and was a real war hero. His correspondence with John O'Donnell was published in the Quad City Times during the war and later resulted in a book called Dear John, which was a collection of wartime letters.

Obituary published in the Palm Beach Post stated: “A veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, Colonel John ‘Packy’ Roche began his military career as a pilot with the Army Air Corp in 1941. He was a pilot with the first squadron of B24s to depart from North America for the European Conflict and later joined the North African campaign with the 8th Air Force, 93rd Bomb Group.

“As an original member of the famed 93rd Bomb Group, Col. Roche survived being shot down twice and was awarded numerous service medals that included 2 Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross. The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded for the low level bombing run over Ploesti, Romania, arguably the toughest air battle of WWII. Late in the war, he was recruited to work on the highly secretive Manhattan Project.

"In 1946, he participated in the nuclear weapon tests at Bikini Atoll. During his 30-years in the Air Force, he served as a commander of numerous air bases around the world and was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon.”

He retired from his military career in 1970. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Patricia M. Roche of West Palm Beach, FL, five children, and numerous members of his extended family.

---Mae Roche Raymond, Naperville, IL, February 18, 2008