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Obituary of Col. William Lawrence Roche
Colonel William (Bill) Lawrence Roche
It is with sad hearts the family announces the peaceful passing of Colonel William (Bill) Lawrence Roche (USAF Retired) 98, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. Bill was born in Lexington, KY on November 24, 1924, to parents Walter Lawrence Roche and Anna Mangione Roche.
Bill attended Lexington Latin High School and was one of eight students to graduate in 1940. At the first opportunity after graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a B-17 Flying Fortress waist gunner. During WWII he was stationed at Deopham Green, England flying missions with the 452nd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. On two occasions he was shot down, once crash landing in France, and then behind Russian lines in Poland where he was interred by the Russians and eventually repatriated to his unit three months later. In 1998, Bill returned to Assigny, France, the site of his first crash landing, where the grateful townspeople surprised him with a formal welcome, displaying pieces of his B-17.
After the war, Bill returned to Lexington, KY, and attended the University of Kentucky. Subsequently he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, serving in the US Air Force for the next 33 years as linguist and Intelligence Officer. Upon graduating from language school as a Russian linguist, Bill was assigned to the new US Air Force Academy and helped establish the Foreign Language Department where he taught students from the class of 1959, the first graduating class.
At the height of the Cold War, between tours teaching at the Academy, Bill was assigned to multiple sensitive diplomatic positions as an attaché at the US Embassies in Moscow, Prague, and Belgrade. He was stationed in Berlin, Germany where he was assigned to the elite US Military Liaison Mission in Postdam, East Germany. During his long and distinguished US Air Force career, he earned the US Legion of Merit along with numerous other awards, medals, and decorations. Upon his retirement, at the request of the CIA, Bill continued to work as a consultant. In 2008 Bill was inducted into the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Attaché Hall of Fame and in 2013 Bill was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his service to the French during WWII.
After leaving government service, Bill remained busy serving as a volunteer for Silver Key, an active member of the local veterans’ groups, and as a devoted Catholic supporting St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Monument Colorado. When not volunteering, Bill was an avid fly-fisherman, golfer, and bowler.
Bill is predeceased by his wife of 40 years, Geraldine Ferguson Roche, a brother, Anthony Joseph Roche (Marie), and a sister Patricia Roche Noplis. He is survived by his children; Kathy Roche Devlin (Jon
Dukeman) of Larkspur, Colorado, William Lawrence Roche (Mona) of Williamsburg, VA, Lawrence Oleg Roche (Robin) of Vogelbach, Germany, and James Lawrence Roche (Sue) of Aurora, Colorado.
Bill was blessed with nine grandchildren: Erin Roche, Lindsey Roche Gilliam (Chris), Jeremy DevlinAbigail Roche Shanahan (Rob), Avalon Roche, Will Roche, Grantham Roche, Julia Roche, and Parker Roche, as well as four great-grandchildren Kennedy and Ella Gilliam, and Jack and Cillian Shanahan.
He leaves behind two cherished sisters, Mary Ann Roche Foster and Rose Marie Roche of Lexington, KY, as well as numerous nieces and nephews, cousins, Ferguson family members, and countless friends fromthe 452nd Bomb Group, World War II, Air Force Academy, veterans, and fishing buddies.
Colorado funeral services will be held March 15, 2023, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Monument, Colorado with viewing at 9:30am and Mass starting at 10am with reception afterward. Services will be livestreamed. (https://www.petertherock.org)
Bill will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on a date TBD. Complete information can be found at All Veterans Funeral & Cremation (https://allveterans.com)
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the National Museum of World War II Aviation (https://www.worldwariiaviation.org/support/donate-now/ ).
National Museum of World War II Aviation
775 Aviation Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80916