Gregory Thomlinson, 65, delivered flowers

March 11, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

His bicycle laden with saddlebags and backpacks stuffed with roses, carnations and baby's breath, Gregory Thomlinson was a common sight pedaling in West and Northwest Baltimore communities for nearly 20 years.

Mr. Thomlinson, 65, who died Saturday of cancer at his Northwest Baltimore home, was proprietor and operator of perhaps the only flower shop that journeyed through the city by bicycle.

Affectionately known as "Mr. Rose," Mr. Thomlinson slowly steered his rusted and aging Schwinn through the main streets and alleys of Rosedale, Walbrook and Windsor Hills most mornings, stopping only for water breaks and sales.

"Then in the afternoon, he'd ride through Remington, Hampden, Reservoir Hill and Sandtown," said his grandson, Charles Newington of Baltimore. "The next day he'd do it all over again, except he'd add some more neighborhoods to his route."

Since the mid-1970s, Mr. Thomlinson, who lived in Forest Park in Northwest Baltimore, sold flowers for two reasons: He had always loved flowers but never had a house with a garden, and he'd had a bad experience once with a florist who wouldn't deliver his order.

"His house was always filled with flowers, mostly fake because he had one of those bricked-in and cement, no-care back yards," Mr. Newington said. "He said he'd give anything to have a flower garden but he couldn't afford to move."

He began his business after being told by a florist that a Baltimore neighborhood he had hoped to send flowers to was "too risky" for deliverymen.

"That just ticked him off to no end, so he learned where the flower wholesalers were and got his bike prepared for business," said Charles Carrington, a cousin. The first week, he camped in front of the florist shop with a bucket of flowers, hoping to take business from the store.

Then Mr. Thomlinson, who didn't drive and used his bicycle as his sole means of transportation, decided to take flowers to areas where flower deliverymen wouldn't go. Friends said he took joy in venturing to supposed high-crime areas.

"He thought it was an insult for any area to be excluded from businesses because of past problems. He was like an a-rab for flowers," Mr. Carrington said. "Sometimes he'd call out, 'Red roses, love, red roses, love' as he rode so people would see him."

A native of Forest Park, Mr. Thomlinson graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1950. He served in the Army from 1952 to 1954 and worked at the old Green Spring dairy plant on West 41st Street from 1955 until the late 1970s.

He married Annette Monroe in 1955. She died in 1989.

When he began his florist business, friends wondered where he got his flowers.

"I thought he was going in people's yards and cutting their roses and tulips off their bushes," said Francine Reeves, a longtime friend. "He told me he bought them, but I didn't believe him, so I followed him one morning."

She followed him to a Northwest Baltimore wholesale florist shop, where he often made a couple of trips a day.

"He had strong legs and a strong heart. All he wanted to do was sell flowers and make people happy," Mr. Carrington said. "I think he did."

Services are scheduled for noon Thursday at Mount Olivet Christian Church, 823 W. Lanvale St.

In addition to his grandson, survivors include two sons, Ronald Thomlinson and Roland Thomlinson, both of Baltimore; a daughter, Charlene Dobson of Glen Burnie; a brother, Augustus Thomlinson of Rocky Mount, N.C.; and four other grandchildren.

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