Remembered as a fair and capable leader and as a caring mentor, Paul J. Roach led the Stoughton Fire Department, serving as Chief for 27 years, until his retirement in 1988.
Roach died peacefully Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the Copley at Stoughton Nursing Home in Stoughton, after a period of failing health, according to his obituary. He was 88-years-old.
Born and raised in Stoughton, Roach, a World War II veteran and Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, joined the Stoughton Fire Department in 1953, becoming Chief in 1961.
Roach was a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, where he was Past President of the New England Division and the Massachusetts Association of Fire Chiefs.
Although it has been a quarter-century since his retirement, Roach left a lasting impact on the Stoughton Fire Department. Some of the hires he made later in his tenure now lead the SFD today, including current Chief Mark Dolloff.
"He was the quintessential Chief," Dolloff said of Roach. "He had a certain command presence about himself."
Captain Bob O'Donnell, who was hired by Roach, along with fellow Captain Don Jasmin and former Chief David Jardin, said Roach was "the last of the old school chiefs."
"I always found him to be a fair guy...you knew who the boss was," O'Donnell said.
Dolloff remembers Roach wore the full 'dress uniform' to the station every single day, something that was standard for chiefs then, but is reserved for just special occasions now.
"You would know he was in the building because he always had a cigar going," Dolloff said.
"Chief Paul Roach was a very gracious and caring mentor," former Stoughton Fire Chief William Stipp wrote on the online memory book posted on the Farley Funeral Home website. "He welcomed me to the community with open arms and offered his advice and counsel when I needed it."
Roach is survived by his wife of 66 years, Madeline T. (Hogan) Roach, as well as his four children - Nancy M. Gregoire, Paul J. Roach, and Michael J. Roach and his wife Lisa, all of Stoughton, and Jeanne F. Roach of VA. He is also survived by six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
His son, Paul, also served on the Stoughton Fire Department, retiring as a Deputy Fire Chief.
Roach and his son were far from the only father-son combo on the department. Dolloff's father, Lawrence, was a Deputy Chief under Roach, also retiring in 1988.
"I was in the last group of guys [Roach] hired and my dad [Henry] was in the first," Don Chipman, a current member of the SFD said.
Even those who weren't blood related still felt like family.
"In those days the department was so small you got to know everyone like a family," Retired SFD Lt. Joe Araujo said.
Araujo worked with Roach from 1955-1987. At the starts of their careers, Araujo remembers working a lot of hours (56 per week) for a grand total of $42 per week in pay.
Henry Chipman was appointed by Roach in 1962 and also retired in 1988 as a Lieutenant and Acting Captain.
"I enjoyed working under him. He was always very good to me," Chipman said.
Chipman and Araujo credited Roach with being able to secure new equipment and apparatuses for a growing department. The Freeman St. Fire Station was also renovated during his tenure as Chief.
Chipman said Roach was an effective speaker when making his case at Town Meeting.
"If he asked for the Brooklyn Bridge they would have given it to him," Chipman said.
O'Donnell remembers a case back in 1984 when Roach appeared before the Board of Selectmen to request a transfer for a new engine truck. The department was having trouble with many of its engines and as a result an old 1956 engine was being used as the front-line vehicle.
Roach, always with a cigar going, helped to make his case by literally blowing smoke. Roach, O'Donnell recalls, blew smoke towards the smoke detector at Town Hall, setting off the alarm to show the selectmen first-hand what type of outdated engine would respond to a call.
Needless to say, Roach got his request for a new engine, O'Donnell said.
"I know he meant a lot to many of the members of the Stoughton Fire Department, which is a testament to his leadership and dedication to the fire service. I was always grateful for his kindness and honesty," Stipp wrote on the online memory book.
Chief Roach's Funeral will be held from the Farley Funeral Home, 358 Park St. (Rt.27) in Stoughton on Monday, Oct. 29 at 10 a.m., followed by a Funeral Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Stoughton at 11 a.m. Visiting Hours will be at the Farley Funeral Home Sunday, Oct. 28 from 3-7 p.m. Interment will take place at Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
Due to floral restrictions at the cemetery, donations in Chief Roach's memory may be made to the Stoughton Firefighters, Local 1512, 30 Freeman St., Stoughton, MA 02072 or Beacon Hospice, 182 N. Main St., Fall River, MA 02720.