The youngest of Ed Roche’s three sons finds solace in the fact his father died on his own terms.
Bern Roche said his father was always more afraid of being a burden to anyone than he was of death.
“I take comfort in knowing he went out the way he wanted to go,” said Roche.
Mr. Roche died on Sept. 21 of heart failure. He was 85 years old. He had also suffered from diabetes.
“The way it was explained to us is that he was old and his heart just gave out,” said Bern.
But Mr. Roche was himself until the day he died, said his son. In fact, the night before he died, he was out at a dance at the Senior Citizens Echo Club with his companion, Marie Pardy.
“He was in there with his girlfriend, having a game of cards, a laugh and a yarn,” Bern said.
Throughout the years, Mr. Roche was known as a stellar athlete, particularly in soccer and hockey. He was a member of various Curling and Corner Brook all-star teams that competed provincially and in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and he also played with the Corner Brook Royals.
It was on the soccer pitch though, with the Curling Rangers, where his heart truly lay.
Soccer was the big thing, especially in those days, according to Bern. He said his father always said that only a couple of major centres had rinks, but it seemed like every town had a soccer field.
The Rangers formed in 1946, after the Second World War, and the team went on to pile up 22 local senior soccer league titles in a row until 1968.
Walt LeMessurier was a teammate of Mr. Roche’s for that entire run with the Rangers — as well as on other clubs — and remembers him as being a fair, clean player who always performed at his very best. He also described him as a really good friend.
“All in all, Ed was a good sport,” said LeMessurier. “The best thing that can be said about any athlete.”
Bern Roche was too young to really remember much of his father’s soccer playing days. The 47-year-old — “I’m 47 going on 30 ... that’s something like he would say.” — has heard countless stories about those times from his father and others.
On the field, Bern said, his dad had a direct philosophy — there’s 22 guys on the field and 95 per cent of the time you don’t have the ball, so when you do get the ball, you should know what to do with it the minute it gets to your foot.
“It made sense to me,” said Bern. “That’s the philosophy he played by.”
Off the field, Mr. Roche was known by the nickname “Cocky,” which Bern said suited him to a degree, but in a carefree kind of way.
“Tomorrow was tomorrow, live for today,” he said. “He was sarcastic, quick-witted ... that kind of thing.”
But, underneath all that, Mr. Roche was also a very spiritual man and a devout Catholic.
Bern would routinely go down to visit him during his later years, just to check in. Every morning at 10 o’clock, he said, Mr. Roche would have the Catholic service on television.
“He’d sit in his ‘Archie Bunker’ chair with his prayer book and medallions,” he said. “He’d follow along with that service, whispering his prayers.”
This past Saturday, before the current-day senior men’s soccer league championship game between the Rangers and Under-18s, a tribute was held in Mr. Roche’s honour.
Bern said everyone agreed his father would have been so torn on the outcome, because he was the type of guy who would have wanted to see the young guys win.
“But then again, he was a Curling Ranger for 25-odd years,” said Bern. “So that kind of split it there ... he wanted to win and he’d do anything to win and that was it.”
Other than his companion Marie and his son Bern, Mr. Roche is survived by sons Eddy and Michael and his daughter Jean. His wife Kathleen died in 2003. His daughter Claire died in 1996, followed by another daughter, Marguerite, in 2014.
His funeral will be held 10:30 a.m. today at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Redeemer.