John Raymond Rose: 1934-2023

We are sorry to announce that John Raymond Rose has passed away. The following obituary is courtesy of his family.

John Raymond Rose died at home on January 23, 2023.  He was born on April 22, 1934, the third of four children of Edith Mary Rose and Arthur Raymond Rose, the latter a London solicitor.  He grew up south of the city in Coulsdon and Merstham during World War II, spending nights in his family’s bomb shelter before they were evacuated to the north of England.  In 1947 he went, as Brits of a certain sort (his sort) tended to, to a smart public (as in private) school, Marlborough College. He enjoyed letting Americans know that Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, went there as well when it became co-ed decades later.

He won a classical scholarship to Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, but before matriculating he served two years of National Service in the Duke of Cornwell’s Light Infantry, as a 2nd Lieutenant in Belize (then British Honduras) and Jamaica.  He regularly entertained his American friends with a story about his flirtation with Princess Margaret when she came out to Kingston for a visit, an action for which he was sternly reprimanded by his senior officer.

At Cambridge, he became a fine punter and captained the college hockey club.  He graduated with a 1st Class Honours degree in both Parts I and II of the Law Tripos.  He made his best friends for life whilst (!) there.  Outstanding marks on the Civil Service Exam resulted in his being offered an appointment as a Clerk in the House of Commons.  Clerks are described in the Economist as “shadowy but influential Commons figures,” no doubt at least in part because of the strange horsehair wig, long black gown and white bow tie with a wing collar that they were required to wear when they were seated at the table in the chamber.  When sessions ran late, he slept in an apartment directly beneath Big Ben, no doubt contributing to his lifelong ability to sleep soundly anywhere.

He loved his job.  In addition to daily sightings and frequent interactions with the likes of Betty Boothroyd, Sir John Foster, John Davies, Sir Anthony Kershaw, Winston Churchill, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, et al, he was privileged to be in charge of pioneering committees dealing with violence in marriage, abortion, and admission to the EEC.  He was most fortunate to become the Clerk to the Foreign Affairs Committee in 1973.  Traveling with his committees was his principal pleasure.

His personal life—lives, really—were as interesting as his professional ones.  He had two of each.  He married Vivienne Seabrooke in 1961.  They reared two lovely children, Deborah and Mark, while living in beautiful historic homes (one over 500 years old) in Arundel, Maidstone, and Smarden.  Scottish dancing and gardening were chief among his passions as were home improvement projects:  he built his own swimming pool and tennis courts.  Amazingly he found time to keep a daily diary, something he did for over 75 years.

In 1990 he married Dr Betty Webb and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lived in Forest Park (formerly Cameron Park) and taught at Meredith College, instructing students on the two subjects he was most passionate about, British and European government and politics.  For 32 years in the summers he assisted his wife who directed study abroad programs, primarily in England, Switzerland, and Italy.  Victorian that he was, he always called his wife Dr Webb in front of their students, fearing they would discover she had a first name.

He became a US citizen on April 7, 2005.  There is some evidence he also became a proper southerner.  Though he only once used the word “ya’ll,” he regularly opted for grits, not Heinz baked beans, with his bacon and eggs.  And he did enjoy NC barbeque (western, of course) and wearing khaki shorts in January.  He loved blue birds and cardinals as well as chipmunks–but grey squirrels, never!  He struggled hard to understand the gun violence that afflicts his chosen country but failed utterly.

His favourite place on earth was Sanspolcro, Italy, where he, a gifted linguist, made friends every time he walked down the street.  All who travelled with him learned the value of speaking to any and every one they encountered.  Early on in Sansepolcro he ordered fagioli con crema instead of fragole con crema (white beans with cream instead of strawberries with cream) for dessert in a smart local restaurant.  Laughter erupted.  He immediately turned around and made friends.  One man asked him for years after, when he saw him on the streets, if he were still having beans and cream for dessert.  Since he died, condolences have come in from Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, Ghana, the Czech Republic, Ethiopia, England, and Italy, Italy, Italy.

When his wife retired from Meredith, they shifted their focus to European travel programs for alums and friends of the college.  It is fair to say that all who travelled with him loved him.  In his lifetime, he travelled to more than 55 countries, mostly with his wife.  Their vacation home in Bath, England, with its parkland views and garden, its Roman Baths and Georgian architecture, its lovely neighbours, was a favourite respite.

His death was perfect, quick and painless—exactly what all who loved him would have wanted.  He had presided at a condo party the night before.  He had no talent for the disability that lay ahead. He was grateful for the care he received from Dr Jason Lobo, his pulmonologist, and for the care and caring accorded him by Dr Daniel Mollin, his internist for over 30 years.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his son Mark Edward Rose, his brother Henry Rose, and his sister Lizbie Rose Bevan.  He is survived by his beloved daughter Deborah Jane Rose Stewart and her husband Andrew Esplin Stewart, and their daughter Charlotte Catherine Esplin Stewart and son James Duncan Esplin Stewart, all of whom visited him from England on New Year’s Day.  Additionally, he has two more grandsons, Morgan Robert Rose and William John Rose, sons of his beloved late son Mark.  His sister Ann Rose Lang lives in Minehead, England.  He has four nieces and three nephews plus nine great nieces and seven great nephews in England and Australia as well as his American relations, one sister-in-law, two nephews and one niece plus two great nephews and one great niece.  It’s a crowd.

He leaves behind an incredibly large fan club of former travellers, 35+ years’ worth. On alumni tours, he claimed the wide back seat of the bus from which he presided, regularly subverting the plans of those in charge, most often (not always!) offering alternative options that showed up as tops on the final evaluation.  Nothing pleased him more.  No surprise that the warthog was his spirit animal.