Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force
of Wellesley College:
Decorated World War II veteran and Wellesley Person of the Week, Elizabeth "Betty" Roche, was a native of Michigan's upper peninsula's "Copper Country". Roche, whose family was heavily invested in the Wolverine Mining Company, entered Wellesley College in 1929.
Betty Roche's maternal grandmother was born in East Machias, Massachusetts (now Maine). And according to Copper Country regional historian Kevin E. Musser, the upper peninsula mining industry and the Boston area had a strong, long term economic connection. "Almost all the money to develop this region came from Boston. One of the early books written about this region is aptly titled "Michigan Copper and Boston Dollars" (Gates, William B., Jr., Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1951)." Musser continued, "The influence of Boston extends to town and street names like Beacon Hill, Concord City, Boston Location, Painesdale (named after William Paine, of Paine Webber of Boston, owner of the Copper Range Consolidated). The stamp mill for the Champion Copper mines in Painesdale were located in Freda, which was named after Paine's daughter."
Roche's family suffered financially during
the Depression, and Betty Roche was forced
Always lamenting her premature withdrawal from
Wellesley College, her schooling
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in December
1941, Betty Roche became part
At the Army Command and General Staff College
she took the accelerated wartime
As a volunteer under General Douglas MacArthur, Roche served in battle areas in New Guinea and the Philippines. In the words of her nephew, Terence Roche Murphy, "New Guinea and the Philipines were no places for a Wellesley lady. Which was exactly why a Wellesley lady like Betty Roche volunteered to serve there." One of 656 female soldiers to receive awards for New Guinea combat actions, Betty Roche received a second combat award for her role in the liberation of the Philippines, and many additional awards in later years. These include the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal.
Following the war, and after a stint as an
English professor at Michigan Technological
Elizabeth Roche died of cancer at her Atlantic
Beach, Florida, home on January 21,1999, at the age of 88. She was buried
with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Posted: 2 June 2002
Updated: 24 May 2003