In memory of Rose Tilbury

in Features

A much loved daughter, wife, mother and grandmother, Rose Tilbury was a successful entrepreneur and a former Insight contributor who led a passionate and accomplished life before her sudden death in February. 

Rose was born in 1945 to parents Juanita and Pepe Rocca and grew up alongside her younger brother and older sister in a three bedroomed house in Alameda Estate which was shared by a very large extended family of thirteen. Maltese was the language spoken at home, with both Rose’s parents having Maltese and Italian heritage. 

Her loving mother, who Rose was very close to, died when she was young and this had an impact on her, bringing with it a dual challenge – significant sadness (and some loneliness) but also a realisation that life is short and that one must enjoy every minute of it. In 1966, Rose married neighbour Eric Tilbury and together they had two children, Nicole and Daniella. Eric was the love of her life and sadly passed away a few days after celebrating their Golden Anniversary in 2016. “Losing Eric was a massive blow,” Nicole states. “She was deeply in love with him and considered him her soul mate. Her smile was never the same after he left.” Rose was very proud of her grandchildren: Stefan, Tiffany and Alexa and enjoyed light-hearted banter with her son-in-law’s Dylan and Kim.

When she was young Rose won various beauty awards and was a regular on the Gibraltar Cavalcade floats. Dressing up in numerous character roles was something she very much enjoyed and in later years she became well known for her bling and colourful jewellery collection, which brought her much joy. Rose’s red hair and matching outfits were a signature trademark and at her funeral many people dressed in colour to say their goodbyes. 

As was the tradition in the sixties, local women did not go to University as there were no funding opportunities or support for young Gibraltarian women. Daniella says that a degree is something she truly would have wanted to have attained. “Her passion was in English literature and writing and she continued to write whenever she had an opportunity and took various university courses online to further develop her abilities in this area.”

Rose went on to become a civil servant working in the Dept. of Labour and Social Security at a time when women did not have many responsibilities in government, yet she held a role with significant duties. She left her position after her second child was born as she wanted to raise her children rather than depend on grandparents.

“Once I left for University and my sister left home, Mum set up her own business leading an estate and letting agency at Ocean Heights,” Daniella explains, going on to say that she was very proud of her achievements as a women leading and growing the business all by herself. “In truth, she was a savvy businesswomen who took significant yet informed business risks which paid off – she had no fear of making decisive decisions. Quite remarkable for a women of her time who had no real assets, mentoring or qualifications in business and yet she did very well. Her business required significant commitments of time and energy and when she sold the business almost ten years ago, this significantly changed the quality of her life.”

Rose was a founder member of the Gibraltar Women in Business network and formed part of the committee for over fifteen years, taking on the role of public relations adviser and as an outreach member. She was also an active member of the GFSB. 

Daniella says that writing for Insight was something Rose was very proud of. “She had a particular commitment to human rights issues and so she wrote extensively about child soldiers; women’s issues; poverty and similar social concerns. She was very empathetic and felt the lack of opportunity or alternatives of others very deeply.”

Among many other interests, Rose was a passionate gardener and her pride and joy was her garden where she spent a great deal of time and which became a haven for her, especially after Eric passed away. Rose was a member of the Gibraltar Horticultural Society and her talent for growing plants and flowers, as well as for flower arranging, led her to become the most prized winner of the GHS, becoming the highest overall winner on eight occasions. 

She also had a soft spot for culture and the arts and was a regular attendee at the Gibraltar Drama Festival and the Gibraltar Literary Festival. Something unknown by many people was the fact that Rose had an extensive collection of original art work from local artists and a copy of every book published by a Gibraltarian. 

Rose and Eric shared a love of dancing. They were elected as President and Committee Member of the Catholic Community Sequence Dance Club leading change during the mid-80s and through the 90s. They established the National Day dances and were very involved in extending the reach and relevance of the club. “Rose was very playful and cheeky and very much enjoyed dressing up for fancy dress competitions organised by the club. She was well known for her ability to disrupt to ensure no one took themselves too seriously – and she was always fun and full of life,” Daniella comments. 

Just days before the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Community Centre Ballroom Dancing Club, Daniella took Rose shopping for a ball gown and matching shoes. “She was really looking forward to the event,” Daniella says. Sadly, the day before the Ball, Rose unexpectedly passed away.

Rose’s warm demeanour was infectious and she was always generous with her time and friendship. Daniella’s final accolade to Rose is: “Mum was a women of colour, courage and conviction as well as a sensitive soul with a lot of heart.”


‘Rose always had a great relationship with my father and passed on that respect to me. Her cheery disposition, great warmth and charm always made me feel happy and welcome in her presence.’ Craig Sacarello

“I’ve known Rose since I was a young boy as we lived in Royal Sovereign House for many years. I went to school with Daniella and Nicole is married to one of my best friends and I’m also the godfather to her granddaughter Tiffany. Many things come to mind when you think about Rose her way of expressing her view of whatever the conversation was about. I remember the last time when Tiffany played for the national team I sat beside rose and started to wind her up saying that the opponents were all the time kicking our Tiffy even without the ball, so you can imagine what came out of that grandma’s mouth until someone told her it wasn’t true and then she had a few things to tell me. Rose had her loving daughter’s grandchildren that she was so proud of and her son’s in law as well. So, to all, I say Rose lived a happy life with the only regret that she lost her partner on the way. So to Daniella and Nicole you have made your mum so proud and happy and she left as she lived.. with a bang.” Pepito Ocana

Rose is the person I have laughed with the most, during the fifteen years that I run the aerobics classes she came and at the end of every term we had a fancy dress party, her originality was always top prize winner. All elaborated by Eric.  She loved travelling and we share three trips Cancun, Cordoba and Tangier were she came to buy a coffee table she had fallen in love with in our flat! Going shopping with Rose was a treat as we would want to buy everything and it all had to match including the underwear, sunbathing was another pasión, we would then compare tans! In her later years I had become her supplier of turmeric which she took every morning! Will miss dearly my special Rose. Henry Sacramento

‘’My gorgeous Rose. Devastated. What a heartbreak and what a void you have left in all of us. Our world will be so much duller without your style, your talent and your grace. I’ll always look across the road and see you there smiling at me and looking absolutely fabulous. You will forever be my beautiful friend and neighbour’ Marlene Hassan Nahon

‘Rose was a truly lovely kind lady with a wonderful energy but I also found her to be a great inspiration. Despite dealing with the grief of your father which she could not overcome as it was so great and terrible illnesses which affected her ability to get up and do things as she was truly so unwell, she still did. She got up, looked amazing, got out but above all she always had a smile and time for everyone and was always so lovely to everyone, and she just kept going. So I always think about her.’ Elka Salmon

Rose was a larger than life person. She was happy, funny and in love with life. She was a schoolmate and luckily she kept in touch with all her friends. We’ve been holding school reunions for practically every year which goes back a long way. I met her a few weeks ago and complimented her on her beautiful garden. She was the brightest rose there. You will be remembered by all of us.  Maricela Linares

What can we say about Rose, after 40 years of friendship Rose was part of our family. She was always smiling and with her unique sense of humour always made us laugh. Will dearly miss our outings and daily chats. Rose will always live in our hearts and memories. Vivian key

I remember Rose with wonderful and happy memories. Our love of plants and beautiful flowers bonded us as it always gave us an enjoyment that we always shared. Her enthusiasm to have a gorgeous garden kept her on her toes, be it buying more colourful plants or arranging and rearranging her terraces and patios. She was always in search of perfection. Her garden was her heaven on earth; now she has perfection! Maurice Gache

As the saying goes: ”Friends are the family we choose”   Rose and I have been friends since 1980 and together with Eric she worked tirelessly for the CCC Sequence Dance Club.  Her cheeky sense of humour and cheerful nature has been enlightening to me and to everyone. Even when she was missing Eric or feeling ill she would crack a joke and the sadness of the moment would come alive with laughter.  Rose is (her spirit lives) the kind of lady who lights up the room as soon as she enters. Her empathy and kindness towards everyone are two of her numerous qualities. I miss her radiance, her generosity,  infectious laughter,  her joie de vivre.  She has left a void which will never be filled.’ Ana Maria Morro

“Our years at Gibraltar Business Network were formative. Rose made immeasurable contribution to the Network. She related many funny anecdotes during our talks to school girls who understood that hard work can also be enjoyable which I am sure made an impact. We will miss you Rose ’ Lydia Durham

Rose was like a star, full of light and brightness,she always had a smile for everyone who she met ,have known her a long time and we had a beautiful friendship which was shared for our love of Football, especially supporting our National Team and also our love for Gibraltar and it’s people where we travelled in a coach in June 1999 to Brussels to demonstrate to the world and the European Parliament at our discontent how Gibraltar and it’s people were being treated. Our chats were sometimes very interesting but we always ended up having a laugh together, she is now gone but will never be forgotten as she will always be that bright star shining in the night sky. Simy Herbert

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