J. Millard Roach – a short tragic life
Remember in the very beginning of the tale of Frederick and May, when Freddie was divorced from his first wife, also May? Custody of their son was given to Frederick’s father, the railroad magnate John M. Roach. The little boy was 6 years old and named John Millard Roach. He went by his middle name Millard, for obvious reasons.
Not much is recorded about Millard’s childhood. He wintered in Florida with his grandparents, visited his great aunts in Belvidere, sometimes with his cousin Emma Simpson.
At the age of 18 he met Loretta Hayes, and eloped with her to Crown Pointe, Indiana on June 12, 1918, after two weeks of courtship. You will remember that his father and May also eloped to Crown Pointe for one of their marriages.
Loretta was 22, a movie actress, art model and art student. John M. Roach his grandfather intensely disapproved of the marriage.
Not even six weeks later, July 19,1918, Loretta takes Millard to court for non-support and demands $50 per week which is about $862.00 in today’s dollars. Millard, still a minor, responded that he only received an allowance of $2.50 per week. The judge suggested that instead of a divorce that the two annul the marriage as Millard was a minor and married without guardian approval.
August 30, 1918, they went back to court, Loretta suing for maintenance. When asked by reporters she told them, “I love Millard dearly and it hurts me to have to take this action. But it seems he won’t come back, and he hasn’t given me anything toward my support. I only want enough to live on and continue my course in Fashion Design until I am ready to launch my career.”
Back in court September 30, 1918, before Judge Brothers. Remember Judge Brothers? He was the judge that divorced Emma and Elmer Simpson. Loretta testified that frequently Millard ran out of money, that he was fond of champagne and often gave wine dinners for his friends.
Millard testified that he had to leave Loretta because he feared her. He told the court that he was in bad health, and had been for some time, and that Loretta had beat him. His grandfather John M. Roach corroborated Millard’s testimony, and testified that Loretta was just looking for a chunk of his fortune.
Judge Brothers refused Loretta alimony.
October 23, 1918, back to court. Loretta had been to see several attorneys, one of which told her she had no case. Two of them filed suit for the same action, so one of the suits had to be withdrawn. The divorce never made it to court.
The real tragedy happens on July 21, 1919. Millard and his friend George Metternick went canoeing in Lake Michigan off Lincoln Park. The lake was choppy, but that didn’t deter the two friends. The canoe overturned 150 feet from shore, no one on shore noticed. George swam to shore and assumed that Millard was following him. George told the lifeguards what had happened when Millard didn’t show up on shore. They hurriedly rowed to the overturned canoe but could not find Millard’s body. It was assumed that he had a cramp swimming to shore.
July 23, 1919 the body was found in about fifty feet off the high bridge of Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park policeman M. Wegner found the body, and it was taken from the water by the staff of an excursion steamer. John Roach, his grandfather had offered divers $1,000 bonus if they found the body. Millard was buried in the Belivdere cemetery next to his father, July 25, 1919.
Next time we’re moving from the Simpson/Roach family and moving on to a Flapper Murderesses.