Thomas Joseph Roche, Sr.
October 7, 1936 – May 15, 2020
Thomas J. Roche, Sr. of Kansas City, a generous Irish gentleman who never met a stranger, died on May 15, 2020 in his sleep at home. His death follows a long and steady decline from congestive heart failure. He was 83.
Tom was born in Manhattan on October 7, 1936, the third of four sons to Irish immigrants, James and Marie Roche. Tom and his brothers lived in a vibrant enclave of Irish Catholics on the Upper East Side and he would always consider New York City his home and backyard. By the age of 8, his mother had died from pneumonia and he and his brothers would move to a farm in Canada to be taken care of by their aunts. Tom would tell harrowing and hilarious tales of life on the farm, long and cold walks to and from school and onion sandwiches in his lunchbox. Suffice it to say, once his father remarried and the boys moved back to Manhattan, Tom was happy to be an urban dweller, and there he would stay until he was in his 40s.
Tom married Barbara Benvenuto in October of 1963, the beginning of a bond and friendship that would last almost 57 years. Tom served in the army from 1960 to 1963, 13 months of which was spent in Korea. He was always proud of his service and considered it an honor and duty to serve his country. He would later spend much time in Washington, DC, where his grown children and grandchildren currently live, and was always keen to see memorials, stand in awe of the living history of his great country and share his pride and memories with family or fellow veterans on the National Mall. Once Tom finished his tour, the couple would marry and start a life in the NY area. Tom was an executive in the packaging industry for 25 years and his work would eventually take his young family to the Midwest. Tom and Barbara would raise their two children, Tom Jr. and Sarah, in Kansas City and create a life there, while continuing to maintain their strong ties to family and friends back on the east coast.
Tom was a stranger to no one. He would talk the ear off of the person closest to him as easily as he would listen to the smallest of details anyone might share with him. He was enormously curious, personable and approachable. After losing his mother so young, he sought out community the rest of his life and cherished it wherever he found it. Whether with a group of bagpipers at his favorite celebration of the year, New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade, or with friends in Bronxville, Long Island, Kansas City, Chicago or Washington, Tom won the affection of many and made every new acquaintance feel like an old friend. To Tom, their life story was interesting, compelling, and not only worth hearing but also had something to teach him about his fellow man and the world around him. His sharp wit, love of books, unflappable commitment to NY sports teams, knack for data and numbers and ability to have fun with whomever he shared time, were hallmarks. He could remember the mileage and turns from one corner in New York to any location he visited in the greater area, even 30 years later. He loved to follow the stock market, to retell the story of a great biography he’d just read, to listen to the pundits, watch the Giants or Yankees, hear any classic country music song and to end the night with an old movie or a PBS documentary. If you were lucky enough to keep his company, he would always ask you to join him to watch “this great story about a rare…” or to “come meet this gentleman I just met. Would you believe he..,” or find yourself infectiously singing along with him to a classic Irish/country/Sinatra or Springsteen “number.” He loved the universal story of human perseverance, and the many ways it could take shape with the right recipe of knowledge, grit and a heavy dollop of determined spirit.
Tom was a man of character, duty, honor and loyalty. He worked from the time he was a young boy and knew that time spent with friends and family was not a given, rather a gift earned at end of a long day or week of hard work. Whether in church, gathered around the bagpipes his father played his whole life, at many a backyard get together or around the Christmas dinner table with his grandchildren in more recent years, Tom valued the moments that brought people together, and was grateful to toast each other and thank God for the day. He beamed with pride over his children and grandchildren and each knew they could have no better champion than “Poppy.” His love for his children and grandchildren was constant and he never could hear enough detail about whatever it was that kept their interest. Even in his final years, he would do his best to attend any event that celebrated their talents, passions and milestones, and you could bet that he would find new grandparent friends instantly in his midst.
Tom will be greatly missed, and is remembered best for his deep and steadfast faith, an expansive and generous understanding of family and friendship, a sharp wit, an ever present glint in his eye and a love of any and everything Irish.
Tom is survived by his immediate family, including wife, Barbara, son Tom, daughter-in-law Sally, granddaughter Libby, daughter Sarah, son-in-law Chris Cannova, granddaughters Sadie, Milly, and BZ Cannova, grandson, Jasper Cannova, all of Washington, and Tom’s younger brother, Dr. Martin Roche, of Florida. Tom also leaves behind a large brood of loved and adoring family and friends.
While there will be a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 22 at St Ann Catholic Church, due to the current limitations on gatherings, a memorial and reception will also be planned later in the year. Friends and family are invited to join at the Mass, where St Ann’s has established protocols for safe, social distance seating. The family, however, understands that this may not be possible for many and hopes you will keep Tom in your thoughts and prayers at this time.
Contributions may be made in his honor to:
The Irish American Heritage Museum https://www.irish-us.org/become-member
The American Heart Association https://www.heart.org
Feed the Fight, DC (an organization that is feeding first responders directly impacted by the COVID pandemic. Both of Tom’s children are heavily involved and he loved that they were working together in this effort) https://feedthefight.org/donate/
Mass of Christian Burial
Friday, May 22, 2020
Thomas Joseph Roche, Sr.
May 26, 2020
Tom was truly one of the finest people I have ever known. In New York parlance Tom was a real mensch. Rest in peace old friend.
May 20, 2020
What can you say about this Irishman ! Myself and my brother Steve have known Tommy for many many years in the automobile business and it is an understatement to say he was the hardest working man in the car business . He was the 1st there every day and the last to leave. I enjoyed my days with him and the friendship . Rest now Tommy, you earned it ! God Bless you and your family. You will be missed lad .
May 20, 2020
Bill and I send our deepest sympathy to Barbara, Tom, jr and Sarah. Although we mostly saw Tom at Christmas Eve parties at Sarah’s, he was always cheerful and engaging. We know he adored his grandchildren and loved being around them.
May 20, 2020
I will always relish the fun times with Tom and the Roaches and in particular one amusing 4th of July picnic where the two families had to scatter abruptly in the face of some fireworks gone awry.
I always enjoyed the fun we shared.
May 19, 2020
I met Tom, aka Tommy until his son was born, 55 years ago when I first worked at CBS Sports with Barbara. I’m very fortunate to have wonderful memories filled with his laughter and love for his friends and family. Each time he and Barbara visited their kids and grandchildren, I enjoyed being with Tom. We recalled all the fun times we shared over the many years...talked about books he was reading...his favorite sports teams et al.
May his passing be for a blessing.❤️
May 19, 2020
I will always remember how much fun it was to work with Tom. He was a very funny guy and a great friend. We shared a good run and lots of laughs. Miss you buddy. George Coopersmith.