Vanderhoof mourns Jack Roche

News Article and photo courtesy of Omineca Express

Vanderhoof’s first full time fire chief Jack Roche has died.

“He loved Vanderhoof.” “He always put others ahead of himself.” “He loved being a fireman.” “He loved to dance.” “He was scary in reverse.” “He was my very best friend.” “He was very musical.” “He never judged.” “He loved Alice.” “He was like a father to me.” “He was known for his big burly bear hugs.” “Never so proud to have known a man like Jack Roche.”

Those were just some of the kind words said about 80-year-old Jack Roche who died suddenly on Jan 15, 2022 in St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof. All those who spoke at Jack’s memorial service, remembered how this ‘give-the-shirt-off-his-back’ kind of guy had touched their lives.

Over 400 mourners crowded into the Elks Hall for the afternoon service, that began and ended with a procession by the Honour Guard. The Honour Guard marched with the retired fire chief’s ashes from the Vanderhoof RCMP Detachment to the hall - about three blocks away. The march was led by the three Fire Chiefs from Vanderhoof, Fort St. James and Fraser Lake, followed by a fire truck, local crew members and final fire truck. “Everybody knew Jack,” said one community member who watched as the procession passed.

Steve Martin, Chaplain of the Vanderhoof Fire Department made opening remarks at the hall, extending thanks from the family for all the cards, food, kindness and prayers.

John Murphy gave the eulogy, painting the picture of a man who loved his community and would always stand by you when you needed him. Jack loved to tell a joke and pull a prank or two said Murphy.

Whenever I saw him he would say, “Hey Murphy, I got a joke for you.”

“He would not want to see us unhappy,” said Murphy, adding, “Jack lived 80 years, nine months and 27 days, yet it seemed too short.”

The chaplain spoke to the dedication of firefighters to put others first, sighting how they give up weekends to be on standby, ready to answer their radio if it should sound.

Being a firefighter is about making others your first priority. Jack was a firefighter first and foremost.

Jack Roche was the first full time fire chief in Vanderhoof. He was chief from 1969 to 1993 when he retired.

Current Fire Chief Jim Hurtado said what he will miss about his very best friend is his big, burly bear hugs. “You can’t touch anything, any of that stuff, at the firehall without it reminding you of Jack. He’s going to be missed by everyone.” Even after Jack retired he would visit the firehall after a call and ask the crew, How did it go?’ Everybody okay? Then he’d put on the coffee.

Family members talked about a father who put together the swings and slide at Ferland Park and helped build the cenotaph there. His great granddaughter sobbed when saying she would miss him, and his son said at the Roche family home the door was always open - the Roche house was your house. The kitchen table was the place where many community plans were began.

Long-time friends spoke about the family-man who had a musical side - he played in a band and loved county music. “He loved to dance,” said another.

There was the Fireman’s Prayer, a slide show, and lots of funny stories about Jack that left the mourners laughing in remembrance. They recalled the botched punch lines, his mentoring ways and how he’d have to go home to check on Momma and say at the end of a long week, “I’m going dancing with Momma tonight.”

Following an hour of verbal tributes, the Honour Guard formed once again ending their goodbye’s to a fallen comrade with a salute exchanged between Fire Chief Pacheco of Fraser Lake and Fire Chief Hurtado.

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