Yesterday we lost our father, Baba, Papou, patriarch, a friend to many, and a pillar of our community, to COVID-19.
It is difficult to find words to describe our loss. George Burlotos was our best friend; he taught us so much. He loved music, poetry, history, philosophy, and of course, everything Greek. He made us laugh and emphasized the importance of church and family. After losing our mother, Matina 25 years ago, to Parkinson’s Disease, he became the center of our universe.
We are forever grateful for his 96 ½ years God provided. Years in which he filled so thoroughly, that you would think he had lived twice as long. His passion was his Greek heritage. It was his lifetime calling to promote Hellenism, and for 35 years, he produced The Panhellenic Hour, starting in 1949 broadcasting live radio from WKDN in Camden, NJ. In 1984, he created The Greek Spirit TV show, which was the nucleus of the Greek American Community until his reluctant retirement in 2017 at the young age of 94. For his lifetime devotion to Hellenism in the Delaware Valley and beyond, George was the recipient of the 2018 Eleftheria Award; the highest honor one can receive in the Delaware Valley.
After living in Greece most of his childhood, George returned to the United States in 1939 on the Greek Ship T.S.S. Nea Hellas. He graduated in 1943 from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, NJ. As a member of the Greatest Generation, he proudly served his country during WWII in the Navy Amphibious Seabee Forces. George served throughout the Pacific, including Iwo Jima, Guam, Guadalcanal, and the invasion of Okinawa, where he survived horrific Kamikaze attacks. Although he loved the Navy, he most respected the Marines, who so bravely led the way during the invasions. He often spoke of meeting other Greek American soldiers during the war and enjoyed writing letters in Greek for them to send to their γιαγιά’s. For his service, he received the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with a Bronze Star for the Okinawa Campaign, and the WWII Victory Medal.
He opened up his home to countless fellow Greeks when they first arrived in America. He drank coffee with his many friends in the Kαλή παρέα and had a social life at age 96 that we all envied. Like a true Greek American entrepreneur, he fed us from his restaurant in Camden (aptly named George’s Restaurant), and he brought joy to many with his fruit basket business.
Through the years, George also served his community in many professional, civic, and Greek American organizations. He was the Chairman of the Cherry Hill Economic Development Board and the Chamber of Commerce and served as Vice-President of Lawn Del Savings Association. He served the Greek community as a founding member and President of St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church in Cherry Hill, N.J. He was a lifetime AHEPA member and served as President and District Governor of the N.J. and Delaware District #5. He was also a proud member of the Eleftheria VFW Post 6633 Greek American Veterans Association.
Our father loved everyone, especially his nine grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. He was blessed by a community that enjoyed his friendship and supported his Programa throughout the years. He traveled everywhere with WWII Veteran hats and his Anichto Mati (Open Eye) his camera. He was never tired, never!
His larger than life personality and infinite energy made us all feel like he just might live forever. In reality, he does. He lives in all of us, in our hearts, and our memories. His Greek Spirit will continue to ripple throughout the Greek American community, like the soft waves of the Laconian Sea, at his happy place in Marathia, Greece.
Our father passed away in peace, in the shadows of Camden City Hall. With a view from his window, he could see the city he spent most of his life. He was home again, with Socrates by his side.
Let’s celebrate him by carrying on his inextinguishable love of life—his eternal ζωή. As we sign off this last time, let us close with George’s own words. Let his love be our companion – η αγάπη του να είναι οι συντροφιά μας.
Ένα, δύο, τρία… γεια σας! (Yiasas!)
Due to government directives on public gatherings, the funeral service at St. Thomas and burial at Locustwood Cemetery in Cherry Hill, NJ, will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the St. Thomas Building Fund, (Saint Thomas Greek Orthodox Church, 615 Mercer St., Cherry Hill, NJ 08002).