Louise (seated center) and her family,
prior to their voyage on the Titanic
2 July 1910|
|Died||28 January 1998
|Parent(s)||Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche and Juliette Marie Louise Lafargue|
Louise Laroche (2 July 1910 – 28 January 1998) was one of the last remaining survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. It is believed that she, her sister and her father, Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche, were the only people of black descent aboard.
Louise Laroche was born on July 2, 1910 in Paris, France to Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche and his wife, Juliette Lafargue. She was preceded in birth by a sister Simonne Marie Anne Andrée Laroche in 1909.
Although Louise's father had a degree in engineering and was nephew to the then President of Haiti (Cincinnatus Leconte), his race prevented him from finding steady employment. Given this, he decided to move his family back to his native Haiti. The family planned to leave in late 1912, but Juliette discovered she was pregnant for a third time, and Joseph decided to bump up their travel arrangements so the child could be born in Haiti. The family originally had plans to travel on the France, but the ship's policy stipulated that children were required to remain in the nursery and were not permitted to eat with their parents, a policy that the Laroches did not approve of. They instead transferred their tickets to sail on the Titanic.
Louise and her family boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France on April 10, 1912 as second-class passengers. Because of Titanic's size, she could not fit in Cherbourg's harbour. White Star Line tenders had to transport passengers out to Titanic, and the Laroche's were transported aboard the SS Nomadic.
Shortly after the Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, Joseph woke Juliette and told her that the ship had suffered an accident. Her put all of their valuables in his pockets, and he and his wife carried each of their sleeping daughters to the ship deck. It is not known for sure which lifeboat Juliette and her daughters escaped in, although Juliette remembered a countess being in her lifeboat. There was a countess on board the ship, Noël Leslie, Countess of Rothes, who escaped in lifeboat 8, so it is likely that Juliette, Simonne and Louise all escaped the ship on this lifeboat. Joseph died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
Later in the day on April 15, Juliette and her daughters were picked up by the rescue ship RMS Carpathia. Louise and her sister were hauled up to the its deck in burlap bags. On board the Carpathia, Juliette found it very hard to get linens which she could use as diapers for her children. Since there were none to spare, Juliette improvised and at the end of each meal she would sit on napkins and conceal them and once back in the cabin, make diapers out of them. The Carpathia arrived in New York City, New York on 18th, but there was no one to meet Juliette and her daughters, so Juliette decided not to continue to Haiti, but instead return to her family in Villejuif, France. The family returned in May 1912, and it was there that Juliette gave birth to her son who she named Joseph, in honor of his father.
In March 1995, Louise stepped aboard the Nomadic for the first time since 1912 when it carried her family to the Titanic from Cherbourg, France. Louise was joined by fellow Titanic survivor Millvina Dean. That same year, Louise was present as the Titanic Historical Society dedicated a stone marker in Cherbourg commemorating Titanic passengers who sailed from its port.
Louise Laroche died on 28 January 1998 at the age of 87. Her death left six remaining survivors.