Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Leo Joseph Roche

Leo Joseph Roche was born on February 20, 1888, in Ithaca, New York, according to his World War I and II draft cards which also had his full name.

The 1892 New York state census said Roche was the youngest of four children born to Patrick, an Irishman and tailor, and Elizabeth. They were residents of Ithaca.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census said Roche was the youngest of three children. They lived in Ithaca at 212 Spencer Road. The address, in 1905 New York state census, was South Spencer Road.

According to the 1910 census, Roche was boarding in De Witt, New York, where he was employed as a railroad operator. Roche’s uncle, Thomas B. Grace, described what happened around this time to the Syracuse Post-Standard, September 6, 1953.

… Grace … invited Roche to live with him at Jamesville after the death of Roche’s father [May 23, 1911] and gave him his first job. Roche began as a telegrapher and assistant ticket and freight agent for the DL&W Railroad when he was 19, and from 1906 until 1916 was a part-time art student at Syracuse University. …

Roche, who was born in Ithaca, did his first cartoon for a newspaper when he was four years old, according to his uncle. The boy’s father, Patrick, read the family a newspaper story concerning a man who was killed when his buggy was struck by a train at a railroad crossing. Young Roche was impressed by it and illustrated the story. An Ithaca newspaper though[t] enough of it to publish it.

Mr. Grace, who is something of a draftsman himself, encouraged Roche to draw and helped him get his first job as an artist. In 1916 Mr. Grace contacted Ray W. Sherman, former Post-Standard reporter, who was a staff member of “Motor World,” a magazine published in New York. Roche illustrated the publication until he went to The Buffalo Courier-Express as editorial cartoonist in 1934. …

Possibly more than a coincidence, there was a Ray Sherman who drew a few cartoons, the same year as Roche, for Newspaper Feature Service. An artist by that name has not yet been found. Roche may have used Ray Sherman as a pen name.

On February 6, 1914 Roche married Emily Lavina Meldram in Syracuse, New York as recorded in the New York State Marriage Index at

Roche signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1917. His address was 865 West 180th Street in Manhattan, New York City. The artist/cartoonist worked for the Class Journal Company which had its office at 239 West 39th Street in New York City. Roche was described as tall and slender with gray eyes and light brown hair.

The 1920 census recorded Roche, his wife and three children in Manhattan at 5006 Broadway. The cartoonist worked for a trade paper.

The Times Record (Troy, New York), February 14, 1974, said “Roche began his career in 1916 as a cartoonist for Motor World in New York City. Between 191S and 1926, he was a contributing cartoonist to the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s magazines.”

The Newspaper Feature Service produced a long-running series of romantic cartoons, by several artists, beginning in 1913. Roche contributed to the series in 1926.

The Times Record said “From 1926 to 1928, Roche worked for Universal Pictures Corp. art department and in 1928–30, he worked for Parents Magazine.”

In the 1930 census Roche, his three children and mother were residents of White Plains, New York at 20 Wood Crest Avenue. Roche worked as an artist for a magazine.

According to the Times Record Roche joined the Buffalo Courier-Express in 1934 and retired in 1965.

The 1940 census newspaper cartoonist Roche was a widower. His highest level of education was the fourth year of high school. Roche and his three children lived in Amherst, New York at 27 Chateau Terrace South.

When Roche signed his World War II draft card, on April 25, 1942, he resided at the same street address in the town of Snyder. His employer was the Buffalo Courier-Express. Roche’s description was five feet ten inches, 205 pounds with gray eyes and brown and graying hair.

The aforementioned Syracuse Post-Standard article also said

… A number of Roche’s original drawings are owned by prominent persons. Among them are Louis Johnson, Charles E. Wilson, Gov. James Byrnes, James A. Farley, J. Edgar Hoover and others. Several of originals are in the permanent collection of the Henry Huntington Art Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif.

Roche lives with his [second] wife at 169 Nassau ave., Kenmore. He visits the Grace home in Jamesville twice each year.

Roche passed away February 12, 1974, in Buffalo. An obituary appeared in the Livingston Republican (Geneseo, New York), February 21, 1974.

Roche — Leo Joseph Roche, a cartoonist since 1916, died February 12, 1974, at the age of 85, in Niagara Lutheran Home, Buffalo. Burial was in Ithaca, where he was born.

During his career, Mr. Roche had worked for or contributed cartoons to: Motor World (1916–26), the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Magazine, Encyclopedia Britannica’s Book of the Year, Universal Pictures Corp. (1926–28), Parents Magazine (1928–30), and the Buffalo Courier Express (since 1934), where his cartoons appeared on the editorial page.

In 1961 Mr. Roche contributed thirty of his cartoons at the request of the Library of Congress to its collection of original political cartoons of outstanding merit. In 1959 he received a George Washington Honor Plaque from the Freedom Foundation for a cartoon depicting a voter in the process of weighing Democrats and Republicans in each hand. Ten of his cartoons are in the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas permanent display of newspaper art.

Survivors include a son, Leo J. Roche, Jr. of Macon, Ga.; two daughters. Mrs. John Hahn and Mrs. William Birdsong, both of Amherst; five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Further Viewing
Heritage Auctions 

Library of Congress

—Alex Jay

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