Monday, April 16, 2012

Titanic: An Untold Story

The Laroche Family
Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. The history of Titanic has always been of interest to me, and back in 2003, I had the opportunity to tour an exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Viewing the mementos salvaged from the wreckage was sad, yet reading about the passengers was fascinating. One thing I'd forgotten, until my husband suggested that I blog about Titanic today, was that from that exhibition, I'd learned about Joseph and Juliette Laroche, an interracial couple on board the ship.

Joseph Laroche was a Haitian-born, French educated engineer from a prosperous family.  His wife, Juliette, was white, and from a privileged French family. Joseph Laroche had not intended to travel on Titanic when he left France with his family in 1912.

Because he was black, Laroche had been unable to find work in France. So upon learning of his wife's third pregnancy, he decided to return to his native Haiti.  He'd bought first class tickets for the French liner France. But once he found out that children could not eat with their parents, he transferred to Titanic.

His first-class France tickets were equivalent to second-class tickets aboard the British Titanic.  He and his family boarded the ship at Cherbourg, outside of Paris.  They enjoyed the ship's luxury for three days, and on April 14, dined together for the last time. Afterwards, Joseph retired to the smoking parlor with other men in second class, while Juliette returned to their suite with daughters Simonne, three, and Louise, one.

Joseph Laroche felt the collision later that evening, and ran back to his room for his wife and daughters. As Juliette and the girls were placed in a lifeboat, Joseph draped his coat, stuffed with money and family valuables, across his wife's shoulders. "You will need it," he told Juliette, who was 22 at the time. "I will see you in New York. I must take another raft. God be with you."

Those were the last words Joseph Laroche spoke to his wife, and although his coat was stolen, Juliette Laroche and her daughters survived. Joseph Laroche was 26, and the only black man aboard the ship.  He was one of 166 second-class passengers who died.

I found the above information here in a story that described an exhibit featuring them. The Laroche's story is a fascinating, yet little known Titanic fact. Had you ever heard of them?

Thanks for visiting!


Old Kitty said...

Oh how sad!! No I've never heard of this gorgeous tragic family on the Titanic until now! Thank you for sharing - absolutely fascinating!! Now this is a more perfect and far more gorgeous and compelling love story than the fictional Kate and Leonardo one in THAT film! :-)

Take care

Maria McKenzie said...

Glad you enjoyed their story;)!

Norma said...

Isn't it odd how so many of us find ourselves feeling so personally bonded to the Titanic and its passengers? I saw a woman in TV yesterday who said she wouldn't have been born, had one woman not chosen to stay on the ship with her husband, allowing two children in third class to take her place in the lifeboat....

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I wasn't aware that there were any black passengers on the Titanic - what a fascinating story! Thanks for sharing it!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Norma: What a great story! It is easy to feel bonded with those passengers. So many tragedies, but a few happy endings too.

@Jennette: Just one of those littl known facts! Glad you enjoyed it;).

Tonya Kappes said...

WOW! You have the neatest stories. I have always found the story of the Titanic so sad. I have never heard this story though.

Intangible Hearts said...

Thanks for the wonderful true story. Man if we only knew the whole story. I was a passenger on the S.S. France once, and it was a lot like the Titanic! Good thing I made it. We traveled in May, so no icebergs.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Tonya: Their story was a surprise to me too!

@Eve: So you were actually a passenger on the S.S. France? That is so cool! And thank goodness you traveled in May;).

William Kendall said...

I hadn't heard of them, Maria. Thanks for telling us about them!

Maria McKenzie said...

You're welcome;)!

Marlie Styles said...

Hello there Maria McKenzie.. I am Marjorie Alberts, Christina LeBrun's Cousin and Joseph Philippe Lemercier LaRoche's distant great cousin many generations back. I was just reviewing all the chatter that's on the web and it's amazing to see he flow of comments over the last 10years for me in the research and just this last few weeks because of the Anniversary of the Titanic and other this going on. I'm working on the screenplay so I would love to hear more of the comments other viewers are just learning of the story. Please feel free to stop by and LIKE the page and keep updated on what our newsfeed brings.

Look forward to sharing our history.

Marlie Styles said...

HEllo there Maria McKenzi. I am Marjorie Alberts, cousin to Christina LeBrun's and distant great cousin many generations back to Joseph Philippe Lemercier LaRoche. I was just reviewing all the chatter that's on the web and it's amazing to see the flow of comments over the last 10 years (for me in the research) and just the last few weeks beacause of the 100th yr Anniversary of the Titanic. I'm working on the screenplay so I would love to hear more of the comments from all the other viewers who are just learning of the story.

Please feel free to stop by and LIKE the page and keep updated on what our newsfeed brings to you.

Look forward to sharing our History with you.

Marlie aka Marjorie Alberts

Maria McKenzie said...

Marlie, so glad you stopped by! I'm on my way to visit you:).