Letters arrive almost 70 years after being mailed
WHITEWATER—Dorothy Bartos Carlberg often went dancing as a young woman with friends in the summer of 1945.
So she might have met the sailor with a penchant for writing letters in one of Chicago's ballrooms.
But the mystery of why his letters arrived almost 70 years after they were mailed might never be solved.
Dorothy, 85, lives in an assisted living facility in Whitewater.
Earlier this summer, two letters arrived at her girlhood home in an area of Chicago known as Little Village.
A sailor by the name of Al Fragakis mailed them from the Navy's Coronado Heights Annex in San Diego. He wrote one in July 1945 and the other in August 1945 near the end of World War II.
In one letter, Fragakis said he regretted not kissing Dorothy before shipping out to San Diego.
The current resident of Dorothy's Chicago home told the Chicago Tribune about the long-lost mail. Soon the tardy correspondence became news.
One of Dorothy's sons heard the story on the radio and contacted the newspaper to reveal that his mother was the intended recipient.
Last week, members of the Carlberg family met in Downers Grove, Illinois. One of Dorothy's six children read the letters to Dorothy.
“She understands for the moment,” her daughter Sandy Jacobson said, “but then it is lost to her memory.”
Dorothy, who suffers from dementia, remembered Fragakis vaguely.
“Every time we mentioned him, she became more alert,” her son John Carlberg said. “She said he was a nice man and good looking.”
John, who teaches English at the UW-Whitewater, added:
“To this day, she finds men in uniform quite appealing, which is why she married my father.”
Dorothy and Victor Carlberg married Aug. 19, 1950. Victor, an Army veteran, died in 2012 after more than 60 years of marriage.
John has no idea where the letters were all these years.
“Someone might have found them stashed away someplace and put them in the mail to complete their journey,” he said.
The mystery evokes a sense of nostalgia and raises the “what-if” potential.
“The relationship doesn't sound like anything serious,” John said. “But it is fun to speculate. Perhaps he (Fragakis) was someone she met dancing, and they had some mutual interest.”
In addition to expressing fondness for Dorothy, the letters from Fragakis describe the routine of daily life in the Navy and ideas for devices he hoped to patent someday.
So far, Fragakis has not been located.
John said the incident has given him insight into his mother's youth.
“She was about 17 at the time,” he said. “She had gone to Catholic boarding school and probably had recently graduated.”
The letters will be added to the family's genealogy collection.
“I enjoyed seeing my mother get some attention,” John said. “I enjoyed seeing her relive some moments from her past.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.