Remembered fondly; Longtime Cabinet editor, publisher dies at 100

MILFORD – Many years ago, Francis Gros Louis walked into the office of The Cabinet on School Street and asked to speak to the editor. The Wilton selectman wanted to talk to William Rotch about writing a column.

“As I was led to his tiny office that barely had room for a desk and one visitor chair, I passed other larger offices occupied by staff members,” he said. “I knew by this first impression of Editor Bill Rotch that this was a very special man.”

Gros Louis went on to write a column called “The Keyhole” for 15 years.

“Weekly chats about local politics providing me with his common-sense wisdom, I believe, made me a better selectman,” said Gros Louis in an email this week from his home in Virginia. “Bill Rotch was a giant of a man in my life.”

Rotch was the sixth generation of his family to work as Cabinet editor and publisher, and family and friends are joining Gros Louis in praising him.

Bill, as everyone called him, died Feb. 1. He was 100.

“Bill was a great man,” said Milford selectmen’s Chairman Mark Fougere, who was beginning a career as a town planner here when Rotch was the editor.

“He was always very kind to me when I first started. It always amazed me how he would sit through a whole BOS meeting with his tiny notebook keeping track of key events of the evening. I loved talking with him about Milford; he had so many stories.”

Lee Mayhew, now a Lyndeborough selectman, also remembers his kindness and common sense.

When he started in 1984 as the town administrator, Mayhew said, selectmen “wanted everything done ASAP.” The editor wrote an editorial reminding the board that the town administrator “was not a superman.”

“I liked him immensely and considered him a friend,” Mayhew said. “He would give sage advice on what was proper for the town of Milford” and was among “the men of World War II who made Milford a community.”

Ginger Moorhouse worked as a reporter for The Cabinet before moving to California to take over her family’s newspaper in the 1990s.

“Bill Rotch was an inspiration to me,” she said in an email. “He was smart, funny and kind. He was engaged in the community, and felt its pulse as strongly as his own. I admired him for his warmth and humor, and was delighted to be invited to his house for dinner along with the whole Cabinet staff.”

Rotch also was a family man. He and Patty Rotch had five children, and lost a son, Malcolm, in 1966.

“He made a point of reaching out to people who lost children,” his daughter Elizabeth Rotch said.

She also remembers how generous her father and mother, Patty Rotch, were with their hospitality.

“We used to have a lot of international visitors” who would stay for a weekend or a month, she said, and her parents were great travelers, especially Bill.

“He was very happy in Milford,” said his daughter, but he was attracted to Mexico and Central America, and if he thought he’d learn something by traveling, he would go.

Elizabeth Rotch said she remembers asking her father why he didn’t play golf; he said he’d much rather spend the time and money on his family.

“I had his wisdom, guidance and love for 70 years,” she said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.