Sally Rose

The “white gloves lady” who helped save thousands from gambling addiction


My remarkable mother Sally Rose, who has died aged 98, was the first National Secretary of GamAnon, the sister fellowship to Gamblers Anonymous, set up for the wives, husbands and families of compulsive gamblers. For more than 40 years she helped thousands of people across the UK to successfully rebuild their lives and find happiness.

Sally Rose (née Silverstone) was born in Hackney, east London, the second of the three children of Mark and Diana Silverstone. Her father jointly owned with his two younger brothers a successful wholesale grocers’ warehouse in Hanbury Street, Whitechapel, that had been founded in the late 1890s by their mother.

A clever, quiet and modest girl, her parents discouraged her from attending university, instead enrolling her at Pitman College for a secretarial course. She came top of her class in shorthand, but her plans to become a courtroom typist were dashed when war broke out in September, 1939 and her father asked her to work in the family business as his secretary. Later in the war she performed similar secretarial duties in a Slough factory making aircraft parts.

In 1942, on a blind date at London’s Café Royal, Sally met her future husband Jack Rose, a young captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. It was love at first sight, and they wrote to each other every day while Jack served in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. The only letter that ever went astray was the one asking her to marry him! On not receiving a reply, he asked again.

Sally and Jack were married in November, 1945 at the Bayswater Synagogue in London. Many years later she recalled, “We were so happy that we couldn’t stop smiling at each other, and the stern-faced rabbi said: ‘Wipe those smiles of your faces! This is a serious matter!’” Jack worked as a hugely popular GP in East Acton, West London, for 40 years, the couple sharing the house with the practice. Sally became a busy mother of three, whilst also serving as the practice secretary and receptionist.

Jack, a charismatic Glaswegian with a great sense of humour — (“we’re Hebrew Highlanders!” he would say) came from a family of successful bridge players: his brother Louis had been a Scottish champion, and his son Irving Rose later played for Great Britain. Jack was also a keen player, but after the first three happy years of marriage he had become addicted to gambling, first betting on horses and dogs, and then in London casinos.

The next 15 years of Sally’s life became increasingly unhappy as her husband was now dominated by his addiction. The disease rapidly spiralled leading to many crises and bail-outs from her parents. Each time he promised never to gamble again, but lying was part of the game. Despite the repeated pleas of friends and family, Sally refused to leave him, spending many nights with her face pressed against the lounge window waiting for his return. “I’ll just pop out to see a patient darling, back in 30 minutes,” he would say after dinner. And he wouldn’t return until two or three in the morning.

By the summer of 1964 Jack was a broken man, on the verge both of bankruptcy and being struck off the medical register. He owed over £20,000 to some 90 of his trusting patients, and all his friends, who had also gradually given up on him.

One morning in July, Sally read an article in the Daily Express about a fellowship in America called Gamblers Anonymous, modelled on the successful 12-step programme for alcoholics. It explained that a ‘compulsive’ gambler was suffering from an illness, and that by meeting and sharing their experiences they could start to live productive lives free of their addiction.The article heralded the arrival of GA in the UK, and in August 1964 Sally persuaded her reluctant husband to attend its second meeting in Westminster.

Years later she would recall the “miracle” of his returning from that meeting a changed man. “The haunted look, full of self- loathing, had vanished as if by magic.” She had never given up on him becoming once again the man she had fallen in love with that evening in 1942. Her Jack was back!

Jack R, as he was known at the meetings, never gambled again. The couple attended weekly GA and GamAnon meetings together for the next 45 years, well into their 90s, until Jack became ill with Alzheimers.

Supported by other members they grew the small meetings into a national organisation, setting off by car or train to open new GA and GamAnon groups as far away as Glasgow and Dublin. They saved many thousands of people “from the gutter, prison or the river,” as Jack would say in his speeches, known in GA as ‘therapies’.

In 1965 Sally became GamAnon’s first National Secretary, and Jack GA National Secretary. Both fellowships are now in their seventh decade. She is remembered by her many friends and family as a selfless, kind, caring, loving wife, mother and grandmother of great humility and elegance. Whilst lunching five years ago with me at Wiltons, her favourite restaurant, a very well dressed, tall blonde woman stopped at our table: “Madam, excuse me, but I just have to tell you that you’re the most elegant woman in London.” Sally, a white gloves lady throughout her life, replied, “Thank you, that’s very kind of you.” On leaving an hour later I was told by the manager that the woman who spoke to us was the Queen of Norway.

Famous for her hospitality and warm welcome, her regular morning ‘salons’ offered coffee and cakes to countless friends from all over the world. Loved by her family and the many whose lives she changed, Sally Rose died peacefully at home with her family and marvellous carers present. She is survived by myself, my brother Stuart, sister Tabetha, her grandchildren Lily, Tarka and Mark, her sister Hermoine and great granddaughter Naia, born just four weeks before her death, and whom she held in her arms. Jack predeceased her eight years earlier.


Sally Rose: born June 21 1922 .Died October 18, 2020

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