The following article was tucked inside the journal, and it brought back one of my earliest memories of my grandfather ("Papou" in Greek). I still remember how nervous Papou George was that day, clutching the roses on that doorstep.

Journal available at: TorpedoSquadron11.Blogspot.com

May 10, 1984


A day she’ll not forget - After 40 years, a mother finds sender of her roses.

by Steve Taylor

Times Tribune staff


Since 1944, May Robinson has wondered who sends her 20 long-stem roses every Mother’s Day.  On Sunday, 40 roses were at her Redwood City doorstep in the hands of George Retelas.  The answer to her 40-yer-old question.

Because he knew her son could not do so, Retelas 66, of San Leandro, has sent the flowers to Mrs. Robinson, 83, every Mother’s Day since he returned from World War II in September 1943.  Barney, Mrs. Robinson’s only child and Retelas’ wartime buddy, was killed at age 21 when his Navy plane was shot down over Guadalcanal in 1943 while on his way to a rest-and-relaxation leave. Barney Robinson and George Retelas had flipped a coin to determine who would receive the last leave available to their unit at that time.  Barney won the flip. Mrs. Robinson has been blind since the time of her son’s death due to acute glaucoma.  She has long said the shock and sadness of Barney’s death led to her blindness.


Retelas visited Robinson after he got home from the war to drop off some of Barney’s possessions, but never revealed he was the anonymous flower sender.  “My sons and daughter always told me to go see her.  I tried to come out last year, but I chickened out.  I guess I was too sentimental.” On Sunday, Retelas, dressed in a suit and fidgeted at the steps of Mrs. Robinson’s Burlingame Avenue home.  Hugo and Frances Bianco, neighbors who watch over the frail woman, led Mrs. Robinson to the door where Retelas nervously clutched the roses.  Mrs. Robinson, her mouth agape, touched the flowers, and heard Retelas’ voice say, “From here on out, you’re going to know it’s me every year.”


“Oh my! Oh goodness sake!” Mrs. Robinson, tears in her eyes, repeated over and over again.  She gave Retelas a long hug and said softly, “What a surprise for Mother’s Day. It’s like seeing my son again.”  There to witness the scene were Retelas’ wife, Koula, his daughter, Margarita of Daly City, and his son Sam, of Hayward.  Also present were Sam’s wife, Lillian, and their children, George, 5, Kosta, 3, and Georgina, 1.


Mrs. Robinson was led to a kitchen table as Retelas held her hand and explained the flower shop that had delivered roses the previous 39 years is now out of business, “So I had better deliver them myself.”  When the roses did not arrive Saturday, the normal flower delivery date for a Sunday holiday, Mrs. Robinson thought that something might have happened to her anonymous friend.  Hugo Bianco reminded her, however, that the roses were once delivered late five or six years ago, so she should not give up hope.


Retelas remembers Barney, who was younger than he, as “young and full of life and energy.”  George Retelas was a mechanic and Barney Robinson was a gunner when both were in Navy Torpedo Squadron 11 assigned to the Pacific Theater during World War II. When Mrs. Robinson received the flowers last year, she told the Times Tribune, “I think it’s this nice Greek boy. I’ve tried to trace him, but I haven’t had any luck at all.”  Once she got his phone number, called and left a message, “but I never returned the call,” Retelas said.  “I was just too sentimental.”

UPDATE: Memorial Day 2018

"After researching more information, the following has been discovered about that tragic flight: On June 8, 1943, shortly after take-off, the engine failed and the plane crashed into the coral reef. The plane was not shot down but crashed due to engine failure. All twenty-four servicemen aboard were killed, of which included fourteen from my grandfather's Carrier Air Group Eleven. Four of those fallen heroes from Carrier Air Group Eleven are laid to rest at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Francisco, including Barney, and for Memorial Day I brought him 75 roses to remember every year he's been gone." -George

Bernard Gordon "Barney" Robinson, USN
AMM2c, Mar 18, 1922 – Jun 8, 1943
Golden Gate National Cemetery, CA
Plot H, Block 1468

Weldon Lee Hamilton, USN
Air Group Commander, CVG-11
LCDR, Dec 9, 1906 – Jun 8, 1943
Golden Gate National Cemetery, CA
Plot G, Block 2083A

Sidney William Quick, USN
LT(jg), Mar 16, 1915 – Jun 8, 1943
Golden Gate National Cemetery, CA
Plot G, Block 2084B

Alley Burton Conrad, USN
ARM2c, Jun 18, 1922 – Jun 8, 1943
Golden Gate National Cemetery, CA
Section I, Site 5246

Neal Golphen Williams, USMC
1st LT, Aug 5, 1901 – Jun 8, 1943
Arlington National Cemetery, VA
Section 12, Site 3290

Robert Wesley Kirkpatrick, USMCR
1st LT, Apr 17, 1917 – Jun 8, 1943
Arlington National Cemetery
Section 12, Site 3070

John Clifford Livezey, USN
LT, Feb 12, 1909 – Jun 8, 1943
Arlington National Cemetery, VA
Section 12, Site 2756

Paul Moret, USMC
LTCOL, Feb 27, 1907 – Jun 8, 1943
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, CA
Section G, Site 189

Donald Randall Burke, USNR
LT, 1919 – June 8, 1943
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), CA
Plot Whispering Pines, Lot 283-3

William Robert Weiss, USNR
LT(jg), Nov 8, 1920 – Jun 8, 1943
Fort Gibson National Cemetery, OK
Plot 5, 3021-B

Ellwin Albert Teal, USNR
ARM3c, Apr 9, 1922 – Jun 8, 1943
Oakdale Cemetery, MN
2nd Addition, Block 18, Lot 4, Grave 3

Robert Haywood Barnes, USN
ARM2c, Aug 3, 1923 – Jun 8, 1943
Marietta National Cemetery, GA
Section K Site 4028-B

Ordien Fenmore Herr, USNR
ARM2c, Oct 31, 1917 – Jun 8, 1943
Bethany Cemetery, SD

Carl Lee Cobb, USN
ARM3c, Feb 22, 1920 – Jun 8, 1943
Jefferson City National Cemetery, MO
Plot 11-0-1014

Keith William Horney, USMCR
PFC, 1922 – June 8, 1943
Brewster Cemetery, KS
Section 1, Block 51, Lot 200, Space 1

Jack Foster Young, USN
AOM1c, June 22, 1921 – Jun 8, 1943
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, HI
Plot E-899

William Thomas Owens, USN
ARM2c, Unknown – June 8, 1943
Honolulu Memorial, HI
Courts of the Missing

Lewis Ray Baughman, USMCR
CPL, Unknown – Jun 8, 1943
Honolulu Memorial, HI
Courts of the Missing

Joseph Emile Hamilton Stevenot, USA
COL, Dec 23, 1888 – Jun 8, 1943
La Loma Cemetery, Philippines

John Henry Clark, USMC
SGT, Unknown – Jun 8, 1943

Charles Sterling Ball, USN
PHM2c, Unknown – Jun 8, 1943

Robert Leon Barr, USNR
PHM2c, Unknown – Jun 8, 1943

Virgil Edmund Flynn, USNR
LT, Oct 22, 1906 – Jun 8, 1943

Paul Edward Babel, USNR
LT(jg), 1920 – Jun 8, 1943
Remains not recovered

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