Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche was born in Cap Haitien, Haiti on 26 May 1886. In 1901, at age 15, he left Haiti and travelled to Beauvais, France, where he hoped to join the high school to study engineering.

While visiting nearby Villejuif Joseph met Miss Juliette Lafargue ; After Joseph graduated and got his degree, he and Juliette were married in March of 1908. Their daughter Simonne was born 19 February 1909; a second daughter, Louise, was born prematurely on 2 July 1910, and suffered many subsequent medical problems.

Racial discrimination prevented Joseph Laroche from obtaining a high-paying job in France. Since the family needed more money to cope with Louise's medical bills, Joseph decided to return to Haiti to find a better-paying engineering job, the move being planned for 1913.

In March 1912, however, Juliette discovered that she was pregnant, so she and Joseph decided to leave for Haiti before her pregnancy became too far advanced for travel. Joseph's mother in Haiti bought them steamship tickets on the La France as a welcome present, but the line's strict policy regarding children caused them to transfer their booking to the Titanic's Second Class. On April 10 the Laroche family took the train from Paris to Cherbourg in order to board the brand new liner later that evening.

Joseph died in the sinking. His body was never recovered, which is obvious because he was the only black passenger on board, and no crew members were black, meaning that if his body was recovered, it would be known.