The Courtland Jindra and Melissa Angert love story is one for the ages and one tied intimately to the Great War. It begins at a World War I monument situated on the top of a hill in Elysian Park, Los Angeles.
|Newly Engaged Courtland and Melissa at Armistice Centennial at the American Legion Hollywood Post 43|
Courtland, an avid World War I amateur historian and co-director of California's World War I Centennial Task Force, began corresponding online with Melissa just after Christmas in 2015. He shared his World War I interest with her almost immediately, (as they wrote each other he was reviewing a book, The Fall of the Ottomans, for Roads to the Great War), and after their first meeting on New Year’s Eve in downtown Los Angeles to ring in the new year, they decided to meet up again two days later, in a small area within Elysian Park called Victory Memorial Grove. Courtland was searching for a monument and plaque he discovered referenced in old Los Angeles Times articles, as he was particularly interested in documenting WWI monuments and memorials in Los Angeles County. Melissa was up for an adventure and a chance to discover something lost, as well as an opportunity to get to know this new guy a little better. They ultimately found the tablet, which turned out to be a large granite stone with an entirely different plaque affixed than the one mentioned in the Times. This raised more questions about the history of the site. Also, the park, they discovered, had been neglected, and the monument itself was covered in over 40 layers of paint and graffiti.
Melissa and Courtland spent the next three-plus years not just falling deeply in love but also adopting the park and monument as a special restoration project. Enlisting the help of the Department of Recreation and Parks, their City Councilman’s Office, and citizens' groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Legion, and the Citizens' Committee to Save Elysian Park, they worked hard to improve the depressed state of the grove. For beautification, they planted trees, shrubs, and flowers and held park cleanups. Eventually city gardeners were assigned to take greater care of the grove, and they—specifically James Tye, a military veteran—took a liking to the park and dedicated much of their time to keeping it beautiful.
|After the Re-dedication of the WWI Monument at |
Victory Memorial Grove, 14 June 2017
The monument (as well as the historic flagpole) was professionally restored and protected with anti-graffiti coating. These efforts were honored by the National World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Miltary Museum and Library’s 100 Cities–100 Memorials Program. Courtland and Melissa also began holding commemorative events there to honor the centennial period, such as on Flag Day and Veterans Day.
They continued to research and learn more about the site and share their knowledge with others. This resulted in many delightful experiences. For example, they became acquainted with the granddaughter of Captain Walter Brinkop, who had planted memorial trees back in the 1920s in honor of the men who had fought and died under his command in the war. The community as a whole took greater interest in the grove, and today it is on the way to looking as magnificent as it was originally intended to be.
|Courtship on the Western Front|
At the U.S. Blanc Mont Memorial, October 1918
Victory Memorial Grove became so special to them that Courtland decided to propose to Melissa there on 3 October 2018. As they stood at the top of the hill near the granite stone, with butterflies flitting through the air around them as they enjoyed the flowers that had been planted, Courtland pulled out the ring and asked Melissa to be his wife. She said yes, and the next day they flew to France for a trip to visit, you guessed it, the U.S. WWI cemeteries and memorials "Over There."
|Wedding Ceremony at Victory Memorial Grove 3 October 2019|
A year later to the day, they returned to Victory Memorial Grove to exchange vows of matrimony. They had planned a small, intimate ceremony with a dozen close friends and family members. It was filled with subtle tributes to WWI. They stood behind the great granite memorial stone, which Melissa topped with cascading white and purple flowers, to say their “I Dos.” Their wedding officiant made mention of the place as a WWI memorial and talked of its significance to the couple during the short ceremony.
The day before the wedding, one of the bride’s aunts had gifted them a special wedding present—an Infant Jesus of Prague pocket shrine, which was inherited from one of three ancestors in the family who had served during the Great War. The bride wrapped the pocket shrine in lace and tied it into her bouquet of flowers as her “something old” during the ceremony. Afterward, the bride and groom walked for photographs to a live oak tree they had sponsored for planting the year before, to replace a tree that had been planted in the 1920s for Coxswain Charles P. Stauffer. Instead of throwing rice, everyone in attendance threw a handful of poppy seeds.
|Honeymooning at the National World War One |
Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, 8 October 2019
And for their honeymoon? Well, it had to be World War One-themed. Since they just visited the Western Front, they traveled to Kansas City, MO, to visit the National World War One Museum and General Pershing’s boyhood home in Laclede. A Jindra honeymoon wouldn’t be right any other way.
Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Courtland Jindra!