One of Boston's Haitian pioneers— Pastor Verdieu Leonda LaRoche— dead at age 78

Rev. Dr. Verdieu Leonda LaRoche

One of the pioneering leaders of Boston's Haitian community has died.

Rev. Dr. Verdieu Leonda LaRoche, 78, died on May 5, according to his family. LaRoche was the founding pastor of the First Haitian Baptist Church of Boston, located on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester.

Born on February 12, 1940 in Cahesse, Au Trou du Nord, Haiti, LaRoche attended the Baptist Theological Seminary in Limbé, Haiti and began his ministries in his hometown after graduation. He married Marie Rose Obas.

An obituary sent to the Reporter noted: "In 1968, yearning for a better life for his family, which by this time included two young boys, Rev. LaRoche had his eyes set on moving to the United States. He made plans to go visit Boston, Massachusetts, where his sister-in-law, Mrs. Marie Viola Pierre (deceased) had already planted her roots with her family."

After a short time living in Brooklyn, NY, the LaRoche family settled in Boston where he established the French Speaking Baptist Church in 1969.

"Rev. LaRoche led the church through its formative years where the church saw growth in membership and after renting, the church moved to ownership when in 1975 it bought its first building on 1541 Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester," his obituary reads. "A consummate visionary, Pastor LaRoche expanded his ministry in the early mid-1990s by planting a church in the middle of Massachusetts, First Haitian Baptist Church in Worcester."

Rev. LaRoche also remained active in Haiti and returned often to his home town outside of Au-Trou du Nord – Cahesse. Rev. LaRoche started the North Haiti Mission and planted three churches, one in Cahesse, another one in Madras, and the third in Garde Monbin. He was honored by the Reporter in 2011 as one of the city's pioneers in the Haitian American community. He retired in 2013.

His son Donald says that LaRoche suffered from a broken hip in recent months after a fall in March.

"His declining health could not support any surgical procedures. Pastor LaRoche was confined to a wheelchair and bed," Donald LaRoche wrote.

Pastor LaRoche was surrounded by his family when he died at his home.

Pastor LaRoche is survived by his faithful loving wife and partner in the ministry, First Lady Mrs. Marie Rose Obas LaRoche; His three sons, Verdy and his family, Whitney and his family, and Donald and his family; His brothers, Leonard, Vernes and his family, Leonel and his family, and Onel and his family; His grandchildren – Antonio, Jordan, Courtney, Jeremiah, Lydie, Camille, Donald C., and Alec; His many nephews, and nieces. He was pre-deceased by his parents, Leonda LaRoche and Antelia Joseph LaRoche.

Pastor LaRoche will be waked on Friday, May 18 at the church, 397 Blue Hill Ave., Dorchester. Visiting hours are 5-9 p.m.

His funeral will begin promptly at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 19. Internment will be at Fairview Cemetery.