Monday, August 28, 2023

Comics: Ruth Roche, Writer and Editor

Ruth Anita Roche was born on February 18, 1917, in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. Her marriage license application had the birth year 1918 and middle name. The Massachusetts Birth Index, at, had the birth year 1917 and her name as “Ruth Annita Roach”. 

Roche’s parents were John Horace Roche and Annie Sakeriat who married on October 26, 1907 in Holyoke. On June 5, 1917, he signed his World War I draft card. The address was 656 Bridge in Holyoke.

The 1920 United States Census said Roche was the youngest of three siblings. Her brothers were Walter and George. The Roches were Holyoke residents at 194 Brown Avenue. Her father was a repairman in the gas and electric department of the city. 

The Massachusetts Death Index recorded, in 1925, the death of Roche’s mother.

In the 1930 census, Roche, her father, sister, Anna, maternal grandmother, Bridget, and aunt, Ethel, lived in Holyoke at 28 Elmwood Avenue. 

According to the Massachusetts Marriage Index, Roche and Henry Joseph Gahan married in 1938 at Springfield, Massachusetts. Their son, John Michael Gahan, was born the same year. The marriage ended in divorce. 

The 1939 and 1940 Holyoke city directories listed the couple at 31 Franklin. 

The 1940 census did not include Roche’s husband in the household. Roche lived at the same address with her son, John, father and a servant. 

The 1941 Holyoke city directory listed Roche and her father at 7 Franklin. They were absent in the 1942 directory. 

Around 1941, Roche moved to New York City where she found work at Samuel Maxwell “Jerry” Iger’s studio. The 1943 (below), 1944 and 1945 Manhattan telephone directories listed Roche at 315 East 46th Street.  

In 1944, Iger formed a publishing company called Action Play Books. The 1944 and 1945 titles include

Ruth A. Roche
Illustrated by David B. Icove

Indian Legends
Ruth A. Roche
Illustrated by David B. Icove

Pee Wee and the Sneezing Elephant
Ruth A. Roche
Illustrated by David B. Icove

Ruth A. Roche
Illustrated by David B. Icove

Ruth A. Roche
Illustrated by David B. Icove

Titles produced by other publishers include

Ruth A. Roche
Illustrated by Dic Loscalzo
Domesday Press, 1945

Ruth A. Roche
Tiny Tales Publishers, 1946

Puss in Boots
Ruth A. Roche
Illustrated by Alex Blum
Tiny Tales Publishers, 1946

It’s possible Roche had help from her sister, Ann, who worked briefly in comics. 

Roche’s address in the 1946 telephone directory was 246 East 46th Street. 

On July 19, 1948, Roche and Francis Charles Manning obtained, in Manhattan, marriage license number 22536. They married on July 22. Iger was one of the witnesses. 

The surname of Roche’s first husband, Gahan, was 
mistakenly changed to Graham in the typescript. 

In 1949 they divorced in Florida. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Comic Book Icons and Hollywood Heroes (2004) referred to Manning who was a police officer. 

The 1950 census counted Roche, her sons Michael and Richard, and housekeeper in Flushing, Queens County, New York at 2929 161st Street. Roche’s occupation was story writer in the comics magazine story industry. Nine-year-old Richard was born in New York. Evidently, Roche was pregnant, with Gahan’s second son, when she moved to New York. Both sons had the surname of her second husband.

Editor & Publisher, December 15, 1951, reported the new comic strips and panel from Phoenix Features. 

The 1953 Manhattan telephone directory listed Roche at 9 West 46th Street. 

The Holyoke Transcript-Telegram, April 7, 1953, reported the death of Roche’s father. 

Author and Journalist, May 1954 and May 1955 said Roche was the editor at publisher Farrell. 

Roche passed away on May 4, 1983. The East Hampton Star, May 12, 1983, published an obituary. 
Ruth R. Schaefer, 66, of South Delrey Road, Montauk, died on May 4 at Southampton Hospital after a brief illness.

Born in Massachusetts, Mrs. Schaefer lived in Flushing before she moved to Montauk 25 years ago.

While living in Flushing, Mrs. Schaefer worked as an executive editor with Roche and Iger, a New York firm that produced creative writing and artwork. She was with the firm for 18 years. During her career as a writer and illustrator, she also worked as a business manager for Phoenix Features Syndicate, where she created the comic strip “Flamingo,” which appeared in the New York World-Telegram for many years.

She also worked as an editor of Classics Comic Books for five years; edited six romance-confession magazines under the pen names of Miss Martin, Miss Bennett, Miss Adams, Miss Thorpe, Agnes Wilson, and the Marriage Clinic; illustrated Mickey Spillane’s “Mike Hammer” series, which appeared in the New York Mirror and other newspapers around the world; wrote scripts for such properties as “Ellery Queen,” “Brenda Starr,” “Aggie Mack,” and “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle,” and edited the cartoons “Felix the Cat” and “Huckleberry Hound.”

Mrs. Schaefer, who was divorced, is survived by her companion of many years, Peter Panteles of Montauk. Her body was cremated. Memorial donations have been suggested to the Montauk ambulance squad.

Further Reading
The Complete Voodoo, Volume 1, photograph of Jerry Iger and Ruth Roche 
Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, 2nd Edition, here and here
Comics, Between the Panels, here, here and here
Stripper’s Guide, Ink-Slinger Profiles: R.H. Webb

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