Joseph is best known for his extensive research on explorer David Thompson and authoring the 2001 book “The Hills and Scenery Were the Principal Objects: The Search for a Trade House”.
Born in Iron Mountain, Mich. to Edward and Rosemary Rocheleau July 19, 1945, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard at 17. Following his military service, he joined the California Highway Patrol. After being injured on duty and retiring from the force, he moved to Thompson Lakes, Mont. Like David Thompson, Joseph was keen on journeys of discovery, and it was a stop in Colorado where he made a truly life-changing find: his wife Linda. The couple moved to Thompson Falls in 1993.
A motorcycle was Joseph’s favorite method of geographical exploration, with many of these two-wheeled expeditions happily lacking a set plan save for the next bend in the wilderness road ahead. Unusual, overlooked and out of the way places were his preferred stomping grounds.
Joseph was at once fiercely private and yet equally passionate about exploring and enlightening others about his myriad interests, black powder firearms, including the history of the fur trade and hunting. The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks honored him with a 10-year plaque as a hunter and bow hunter education instructor. Through the Hunter Education Program, Joseph was able to work with local youth teaching them the basics of firearm handling safety.
ABC Book World, Canada’s largest-circulation independent publication about books, interviewed Joseph about his research on David Thompson, Western Canada’s foremost explorer and mapmaker. The article reports: “The focus of Rocheleau’s research is northwest Montana, specifically the valley of the Clark’s Fork. (It is written) in an effort to bring awareness to a public that has largely received its view of the fur trade from fiction and popular movies.” In the article, Joseph states: “The book I wrote is largely technical but does offer some insights into historical events. I tried not to make it into a text book but rather a book that allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.”
Joseph’s love of history led to much volunteer work with the Sanders County Historical Society and the Old Jail Museum where he outfitted the Fur Trade Exhibit with many of his original and reproduction artifacts illustrating the local historical fur trade. It was this love of history that was the driving force behind the US Forest Service, Libby office, inviting him to join the research team to the Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg. The grant focused on the Hudson Bay Company and the fur trade for this area of Montana. He was active in historical rendezvous reenactments, and his extensive library specializes in the fur trade, military history, and firearms.
Above all, Joseph was a Christian.
One of his last wishes was to thank everyone in Thompson Falls for giving him a home at last.
Joseph is survived by his wife, Linda; mother, Rosemary Lewis of Kalispell; his sons, Bryan (Shelly) of Missoula, and their son Ethan, serving in the Air Force and Jason of Missoula; daughter, Anne King, serving in the Air Force; brothers, Pierre St. Marie of Kalispell, Michael Rocheleau (Doris) of Great Falls, Daniel Rocheleau (Sheri) and their daughter Matraca of Spirit Lake, Idaho; and sister Sherilynn Rocheleau of California.
Private family services will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Joseph’s memory may be made to Sanders County Historical Society, PO Box 774, Thompson Falls, MT 59873.