The Welcome Temple

San Pedro’s largest Jewish synagogue, Temple Beth El, turns 90

Rabbi Charles Briskin stands inside Temple Beth El’s synagogue. (photo by Joshua Stecker)

This year, Temple Beth El celebrates their 90th anniversary and commemorated the occasion with two special services in March and April, where past presidents and longtime members of the congregation were honored.

“Our theme for this year has been ’90 Years and Beyond’,” explains Rabbi Charles Briskin, who has led the temple since 2005. “We want to honor and celebrate our past, but are also looking forward to our future.” Local representatives Councilman Joe Buscaino, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, and Congresswoman Janice Hahn were also on hand to celebrate the anniversary.

Currently, there are approximately 270 families from San Pedro and surrounding areas that congregate at the temple, and are, according to temple members, what make the temple such a special place.

“There are other temples that people can join and attend, but many choose ours,” says Marla Shwarts, the temple’s president. “And I think that’s because our temple provides a warmth and comfort that families are looking for. We have a Rabbi and synagogue that meet their personal and spiritual needs.”

It all started in 1922, when the first organized Jewish service was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Levin in San Pedro. The following year, the wives of Jewish men belonging to a social club formed the San Pedro Jewish Sisterhood in an effort to support the Jewish community and provide aid to those in need throughout San Pedro.

The group of women gave Temple Beth El its first Torah scroll in 1928, and helped raise funds to build the San Pedro Jewish Community Center, which was dedicated in 1935, and located at the corner of 19th St. and Cabrillo Ave. – now the Italian American Club.

Soon after the Center was dedicated, the Beth El Women’s League was formed in 1936 to develop a religious school. In 1938, the temple was named Congregation Beth El, but was later changed to San Pedro Jewish Community Association in 1944. As the number of Jewish families continued to grow in San Pedro, the need for a more accommodating facility was apparent.

“We welcome people of all stripes, backgrounds, and cultures, and want to take the essence of what makes our temple such a special place and share that with as many people as possible. We always want to be in community with one another while remaining rooted in Jewish traditions.”

In 1955, the San Pedro Jewish Sisterhood sold the building on 19th St. and Cabrillo Ave. and donated the proceeds to the construction of the temple’s current location on Seventh St. A year later, the Torah scrolls were brought to their new home, which also consisted of offices, classrooms, a kitchen, and a social hall/sanctuary. Likewise, the Beth El’s Women’s League changed their name to Temple Beth El Sisterhood and joined the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods of the Reform Movement. Following the lead of the sisterhood, the temple changed its name one last time to Temple Beth El in 1959, as part of its affiliation with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

In 1971, Rabbi David Lieb and his wife Estelle came to lead the congregation at Temple Beth El, and continued to do so for 34 years. The temple’s religious school welcomed its first professional Jewish educator, and an enrollment of 284 students, in 1975, followed by the election of their first woman president in 1976, and the hiring of their first Cantor in 1977.

The 1980s continued to bring growth and the Seventh St. facility was enlarged in 1985. Temple Beth El was then honored with the “Freedom of Light” award from the Religious Coalition on Reproductive Rights in 1994 for a special program put on by the temple about religion and reproductive choice. In 2002, the Temple Beth El Peninsula Family Center was created to reach young Jewish families in Palos Verdes and the western communities of the South Bay.

Because Temple Beth El is one of the largest synagogues in the Los Angeles Area, and has remained within a mile of its origin, it’s no surprise that the temple brings a sense of inclusion within the Jewish community.

“We welcome both Jews and non-Jews,” describes Rabbi Briskin. “We welcome people of all stripes, backgrounds, and cultures, and want to take the essence of what makes our temple such a special place and share that with as many people as possible. We always want to be in community with one another while remaining rooted in Jewish traditions.”

Part of those Jewish traditions includes having more of a questioning theology versus a rigid theology, all while incorporating new, innovative programs that serve not only the temple, but also the community.

“It’s very important to us that our synagogue is the center of Jewish life and learning in the South Bay, and that we connect people to one another,” says Rabbi Briskin, who is also involved with the Rotary Club and South Coast Interfaith Council. “Therefore, it’s even more important that we are engaged with our larger community.”

The temple’s desire to engage in the larger community has lead them to be part of the Toberman Neighborhood Center, where volunteers provide hot meals once a month, and Harbor Interfaith Services, where volunteers help with fundraisers and food drives. The temple will be hosting a weekend-long celebration in January in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Friday, January 17, the temple will host a Gospel Shabbat Service at 7:30 p.m. with a local Gospel church; on Saturday, January 18, the temple will be conducting social action work throughout the community; and on Sunday, January 19, the temple will join the South Coast Interfaith Council in a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at First Congregational Church of Long Beach, followed by A Radical Friendship, a play about the friendship between Martin Luther King Jr. and Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel at the Norris Pavillion at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the play are limited and can be purchased at

“This weekend of celebration is a great way to partner and connect with our community,” says Cantor Ilan Davidson. “We are hoping to ‘pray with our hands and feet’ just as Heschel did with Dr. King.”

“I was once told that our temple was the ‘jeweler of the gem’ – that our temple was a small, but precious gem to the South Bay,” explains Shwarts. “And what that said to me was that as the gem’s shape and color remains the same, it still must be polished and kept current. It is our responsibility as a temple to move forward with our congregation and community in an effort to keep our gem polished.” spt

Temple Beth El is located at 1435 W. 7th St. in San Pedro and hosts Shabbat services every Friday at 7:30 p.m. More information can be found on their website,

A Tasteful Romance: Andria & Roberto Lo Grande – November 3, 2012 (Wedding)

Photos by John Mattera Photography

Andria (Trani) Lo Grande went to the Taste in San Pedro in April 2009 expecting to sample the different flavors of town. Little did she know that in addition to savoring the various delicacies San Pedro is known for, she’d also meet her future husband, Roberto.

Andria was introduced to Roberto while hanging out with friends at the Taste. At the time, Blackberries were still popular, so Roberto didn’t hesitate to ask for Andria’s “BBM” (Blackberry Messenger) name. That night, Roberto BBMed Andria and after two weeks of messaging back and forth, they went on their first date to Sushi Fiori in Redondo Beach.

“It was really sweet how he asked me – he asked me in Italian,” describes Andria, daughter of Phil Trani and Michelle Katrich. “He’s full Italian and I’m part Italian, part Croatian.”

The date went well and was a somewhat new experience for Andria as she didn’t really date much prior to Roberto, son of Sal and Maria Grazia Lo Grande. Although always a little “standoff-ish,” Andria decided to venture into a second date two weeks later, where the two enjoyed a night at the movies.

During this time (and in typical San Pedro fashion), one of Andria’s friends was dating one of Roberto’s friends, so they all spent a lot of time together. Then, Roberto had Andria meet his family in November of 2009, and a few days later, asked her to be his girlfriend.

“It was like I had to pass a test before he made the commitment,” Andria jokes.

Andria continued to make the grade in Roberto’s eyes, which was made evident during an October 2011 trip to Vegas for Andria’s and a friend’s birthday. While hanging out with a group of friends in their hotel room, Roberto got down on one knee and popped the question.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” says Andria. “We were all just so shocked!”

Andria said yes, of course, and the couple married on November 3, 2012. Their ceremony was at Mary Star of the Sea Parish. Andria’s grandfather, Marijan “Mutt” Katrich, walked her halfway down the aisle, while her father walked her down the rest of the way. There were more than 350 guests in attendance and their large wedding party consisted of many relatives and friends.

On Andria’s side were Maid of Honor Cassie Redlew; bridesmaids Shannon Fredericks, Nicole Trani, Paola Palma, Cara Williams, Rindy Vidovich, Christina Lo Grande, Melissa Malahni, Stephanie Fiamengo, and Carly Potter; and flower girl Lauren Fredericks. On Roberto’s side were Best Men Sergio Lo Grande and Gaetano Lo Grande; groomsmen Phil Trani, Salvo Cracchiolo, Giuseppe Napoli, Paolo Funiciello, Pay Lopez, Jason Dorio, Joe Agrusa, and Eddie Sullivan; and ring bearers Jack Fredericks and Max Trani Hardin.

Following the ceremony, a pre-reception was held at Phil Trani’s Fine Food & Spirits in Long Beach, which is Andria’s father’s restaurant.

“We wanted our guests to have a place where they could go and be entertained since there was a large time gap between the wedding and reception,” explains Andria. “Everyone was able to enjoy drinks and appetizers, and we had a mariachi band that played for everyone and continued to play at the reception.”

Andria’s grandfather was a commercial fisherman and fell in love with the mariachi music he would hear while working on his ship. For Andria’s mother’s and aunt’s weddings, he hired mariachis to play at their receptions, so Andria wanted to carry on the tradition at her own reception.

Roberto and Andria’s reception was held at the Hilton Long Beach, where the couple entered dancing to Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” They then shared their first dance to Steve Tyrell’s version of “The Way You Look Tonight,” followed by the father-daughter dance to Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl.” Also featured at the wedding were a variety of Italian and Croatian cookies, which were homemade by family members.

Following their special day, the couple spent a week in St. Lucia for their honeymoon.

Currently, Roberto and Andria reside in San Pedro, and Roberto is a superintendent on the docks, while Andria is a registered nurse at San Pedro Hospital. They hope to buy a home and start a family soon. spt

Go Big Or Go Home: Gina & Sarah Di Leva – October 19, 2012 (Wedding)

photos by Jeff Loftin & John Mattera

Gino and Sarah (Brander) Di Leva never thought they would ever get married, especially to each other.

The couple met through mutual friends in 2003 and got to know each other well as they often enjoyed dinner and live music together with their close-knit group of friends.

“We started off with a quirky friendship,” describes Gino, son of Vince and Mary Di Leva. “We would tease each other and joke around about going out with each other until we eventually did.”

So the two headed to Rock Bottom in Long Beach for their first “date” without the rest of the gang. They said the experience was really nothing different from when they were with their friends, and they just enjoyed each other’s company.

But because of their independent spirits, Gino and Sarah were in no rush to commit.

“We saw our relationship as us doing our own thing while enjoying the other person’s company,” says Gino. “Neither one of us were in a real hurry, so we just took it one day at a time.”

Being very driven in his music career, those around him knew Gino for his infamous one-liner: “I’m opposed to commitment.” Sarah was very aware of this and even heard it from Gino himself that he never wanted to get married. Likewise, Sarah didn’t grow up ever wanting to get married, but knew that if she ever did, it would be to Gino.

“We were both very independent, but had huge admiration for each other,” explains Sarah, daughter of Elizabeth Meyer. “I knew that if I were to ever marry, it would be to him. But marriage was never on the forefront of my mind.”

Despite their views on marriage, the two finally committed to each other in 2010. Ironically, as soon as Gino committed, Sarah moved to Australia for a year.

“I love Australia, and learning and tending to animals, and had the opportunity to live in Australia and work on a farm and travel throughout the country,” says Sarah. “But I could only call home once a week – and that was tough for us.”

In December 2011, seven months into Sarah’s year in Australia, Gino visited for five weeks, a trip that would take their relationship to the next level.

“I knew I was going to marry Sarah when I committed to a relationship,” explains Gino. “So I thought what better place to propose than Australia? I knew I had to go big or go home.”

And go big he did. Gino and Sarah took a plane to Ayres Rock in the middle of the Outback, where they had the choice to climb up the rock or walk around it. The two chose to conquer the six-mile walk around the rock, encountering numerous waterholes along the way. About three-and-a-half miles into their walk, they came upon a beautiful waterhole lined with trees that formed a tunnel.

Gino didn’t want to propose with others around, so he waited for the area to clear out. Once it did, Sarah pulled out Santa hats and thought it would be a good idea to take their Christmas pictures while there. Gino obliged and then told her he had a little gift for her, which was a “cheesy” bracelet, as he would describe it. He then said, “I have one more gift.”

He pulled out the box with the ring in it and got down on one knee and proposed. Sarah said yes, and again Gino said, “I have one more gift!” He pulled out his iPod and put the earbuds in Sarah’s ears and held her close and danced with her as she listened to the song being played, which was titled “U,” written and performed by Gino.

As this was all going on, not one other person was in the same area. As soon as the song ended, however, a large group of people entered.

“It was just a beautiful moment,” explains Sarah. “Everything about the day was just beautiful, from our sunrise tour to our engagement, to the dinner at sunset. It was just perfect.”

Less than a year later, the two married on October 19, 2012. Their ceremony was a traditional Catholic one at All Hallows Catholic Church in La Jolla in front of 100 guests. During the ceremony, Sarah’s friend Christina, who owns a bed and breakfast in Australia with her husband John, did a scripture reading. The church’s children’s choir performed various hymns and psalms, while Gino’s brother-in-law John Morreale and nephew Matthew Morreale played and sang “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli. Additionally, Monsignor Pilato, a longtime family friend and distant relative of Gino’s, presided over the ceremony.

Standing next to Gino and Sarah were their wedding party: Matron of Honor Kasie Regnier; bridesmaids Tarren Austad and Jenny Carlson; flower girl Ava Austad; Best Man Domenico Pilato; and groomsmen John Mattera, Tony “Mo” Di Leva, Anthony Di Leva, and John Morreale.

The reception followed at Green Gables Estate in San Marcos. Gino and Sarah danced to the same song Sarah listened to during the proposal. Gino also mixed a variety of songs together for the cake cutting, garter toss, bouquet toss, and more. For a surprise, Sarah strapped toys to her garter for Gino to find when it was time to remove it.

Gino and Sarah kicked off their honeymoon with a two-night stay in San Diego with Christina and John from Australia, followed by a week in Palm Desert. The couple currently lives in San Pedro, Sarah works at a physical therapy office in Redondo Beach, and Gino works as a disc jockey for Michael Angelo Music; operates M3 Workshops, Inc., a non-profit organization; and plays for various bands including Dr. Iven, Identity Theft, and Rodeo Drive. spt

A Walk To Remember: Ted Golden & Gerilynn Gioiello – September 14, 2012 (Wedding)

Ted Golden & Gerilynn Gioiello - September 14, 2012 (photos by John Mattera Photography)

The old adage is never date a co-worker. Ever. But sometimes the stars align, fate intervenes and what could end up being a disaster turns into something incredibly special.

Gerilynn (Gioiello) and Ted Golden were both working as longshoremen for ILWU Local 13 when they met in 2006. Gerilynn wanted to get back into shape and began taking walks with Ted, who was also very active. Their first official date was to an Eagles concert at Staples Center in November 2006.

“The funniest part about that night was that after trying to hide our interest in each other from our co-workers, we ran right into them at the concert,” explains Gerilynn. “Of all the places to run into your co-workers!”

Throughout their relationship, the two traveled to various places including Mexico, Napa Valley, and Hawaii – of which Gerilynn says Maui is their favorite place.

“We just enjoy being with each other and experiencing new places with one another,” described Gerilynn. “It’s been like that for as long as we’ve known each other.”

In December 2011, Gerilynn and Ted decided to take a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate Gerilynn’s birthday. Her brother, sister, and brother-in-law joined the two. With reservations set for her favorite restaurant – Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino – Gerilynn invited her sister and brother-in-law to join her and Ted for dinner, not knowing Ted was planning on proposing. But that didn’t stop him. He asked her to marry him, and, of course, she said “yes.”

The two married less than a year later on September 14, 2012, a date also commemorating Gerilynn’s father’s birthday, who passed away prior to their wedding. Ironically, Gerilynn’s birthday is December 14 and Ted’s is June 14 – more reasons as to why the 14th was the chosen date. The event was cocktail-style and took place at The Sepulveda Home in San Pedro, a French-colonial plantation-styled home that reminded Ted of New Orleans, where he was raised, and his mother, who passed away a year before the wedding.

More than 100 guests gathered for the intimate ceremony, where Gerilynn’s mother, Carmela, walked her down the aisle to Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl.” Her father was part of the ceremony as well, as Gerilynn had his picture in her bouquet. During the ceremony, Gerilynn was joined by Maid-of-Honors Teresa Pisano, her cousin, and Sofia Rogers, her best friend, who was bed-written due to pregnancy, but was Skyped in by a friend so she could be part of the ceremony.

Ted was joined by Best Men (and sons) Ted and Charlie Golden. Ted’s daughter Juli also shared a reading during the ceremony, while Gerilynn’s niece Kristy sang “The Prayer.”

The reception immediately followed with food catered by Critic’s Choice Catering. Guests enjoyed everything from sliders, to tri-tip, to mac n’ cheese. Specialty drinks were also being served, featuring pomegranate and lemon drop martinis, and beer from Four Peaks Brewery, owned by Ted’s son Ted. And when it came to music, it was none other than 80s music video icon Richard Blade spinning the tunes.

While the night began with Italian music in honor of Gerilynn’s family, she and Ted danced to The Beatles’ “In My Life” for their first dance.

For their honeymoon, Ted and Gerilynn spent more than three weeks in Italy, touring Venice, Rome, and Ischia, the island Gerilynn’s family is from. When the couple got there, her family surprised them with another wedding reception.
“It was just great to be with my family and have them meet Ted,” says Gerilynn. “It was just so nice.”

Currently, Ted and Gerilynn live in San Pedro and still work as longshoremen for ILWU Local 13, and are very busy tending to their puppies. spt

Hello, Pretty Lady: Jeff Lecce & Stefani Di Girolamo – August 25, 2012 (Wedding)

Photos by John Mattera Photography

When Stefani Di Girolamo walked into San Pedro Brewing Co. back in 2008, all Jeff Leccecould ask his friend Daniel was, “Who’s that? WHO IS THAT?!” Little did Jeff know, Daniel’s family was very close to Stefani’s, and with a little liquid encouragement, Daniel got Jeff to approach Stefani.

“All I remember is Jeff coming up to me and saying, ‘Hello pretty lady’,” Stefani recalls. “And his eyes – I’ll always remember those blue eyes.”

Little did Stefani know, a night at the Brewing Co. with Jeff would turn into a life-long commitment.

Stefani, 29, daughter of Paolo and Maria Di Girolamo, was born in Italy and grew up in San Pedro. Jeff, 31, son of Jeff (Linda) Lecce and Alison (Michael) Koth, was born and raised in San Pedro. Although the two lived in town, their paths never crossed until that night at the Brewing Co.

Soon after meeting each other, Jeff and Stefani became friends on and kept in touch. Two months later, they went on their first date – a lunch date at El Burrito Jr.

“Our first date wasn’t the nicest and was a bit rushed, but we just wanted to see each other, even if it was just for an hour,” remembers Jeff.

Jeff and Stefani’s relationship grew from there, with Jeff having no hesitation in taking Stefani’s daughters under his wing.

“Jeff was and is the perfect person to step in as a father figure,” says Stefani, who has two daughters, ages 7 and 10. “I thought for a very long time that no one was going to want to be with me because I had kids, but Jeff has always loved and accepted me and my daughters.”

Fast forward to the day before Easter 2011, when Jeff proposed to Stefani. The two enjoyed lunch at Nelson’s at Terranea Resort, followed by a walk down by the trails. Jeff stopped at a bench and as he got down on one knee, Stefani screamed “What are you doing?!” After she realized what was going on, she said, “Yes!”

Jeff and Stefani got married on August 25, 2012, at Erhart’s By The Sea at Fort MacArthur. With approximately 235 guests in attendance, their ceremony was short and sweet. At one point during the ceremony, the officiant held a moment of remembrance for Jeff’s father, who passed away in 2005.

The bridal party consisted of Maid of Honor Roselina Di Girolamo; bridesmaids Loredana Di Girolamo and Toni Buccaran; junior bridesmaid Samantha Loera; and flower girl Savannah Loera. On Jeff’s side was Best Man Chris Aranda; and groomsmen Justin Lecce, Filippo Giannola, J.R. Aranda, Giuseppe Di Girolamo and Danny Di Girolamo.

Following the ceremony was a reception that, as Jeff puts it, was “one big party.”

“We just wanted everyone to have a good time,” he says. “We like to dance and party and we just wanted to do that with our friends and family.”

While Jeff and Stefani danced to “Lucky” by Jason Mraz, Stefani and her dad Paolo danced to “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker, only to be “interrupted” two-and-a-half minutes into the song.

“Half-way into our dance, the song ‘ripped’ and ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor started playing,” Stefani explains. “My dad put on a wig that he had in his jacket and we went to town dancing!”

Another fun thing that happened a few times throughout the reception was the flash mob Jeff and Stefani did with a group of friends to “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar.

“Everyone was so surprised every time it happened,” says Stefani. “It was just fun!”

Jeff and Stefani took a mini-honeymoon to Palm Desert for a few days, followed by a Labor Day weekend celebration with friends and family in Lake Havasu.

“It was a little hard for us to take a long honeymoon and leave the girls behind,” explains Stefani. “So we are planning a family vacation to Italy next summer for three weeks.”

Stefani currently works at a medical office and is pending acceptance into the nursing program at Los Angeles Harbor College. Jeff owns Jeff Lecce Concrete Pumping, which has been in business for almost 10 years. They currently reside in San Pedro and are hoping to have more children in the future. spt

From Puppy Love To Soulmates

Photos by John Mattera Photography

It began as a schoolyard crush.

We all remember that feeling, that queasy stomach every time that person entered the classroom, the nervousness that came when you tried to talk to one another. The awkward glances. The overanalyzing of every word they said and move they made. It’s puppy love and it’s supposed to prepare us for the romantic experiences that would lie ahead in all our lives. For some, puppy love can lead to something much bigger. Such is the case for Petar and Magali (Martin) Blazevic, whose schoolyard crush turned into a lifetime commitment of happiness.

Petar and Magali met in the sixth grade at Miraleste Intermediate School in Rancho Palos Verdes. They entered into what Magali would call, “a middle school romance – the kind where you date for a few days and then move on.” Although their relationship fizzled, their friendship didn’t, and they continued to remain close all throughout middle school and into high school. They both dated other people their freshman year at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, but when their sophomore year came around, they thought they’d give romance another shot and began dating once more. The two have been together ever since.

In 2008, Petar and Magali took their relationship to the next level and the two moved in together. Three years (and two dogs) later, they bought a home in San Pedro.

Just months after purchasing their home, their relationship would take yet another big step. Magali had just completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, and as a reward for finishing the program, Petar wanted to treat her to a day of whale watching on his friend’s yacht on Easter Sunday. While out on the water, the boat came to a stop in front of a lifeguard tower in Redondo Beach. But this was no ordinary lifeguard tower – this was the same lifeguard tower Petar asked Magali to be his girlfriend their sophomore year of high school. This time around, Petar asked Magali to be his wife, of course, she said yes.

The couple married on July 14, 2012, which was also their anniversary. More than 200 attendants watched Petar and Magali share their vows at Mary Star Church, a ceremony officiated by Father Brian Nunes, who also baptized Magali following her RCIA completion. The ceremony had many special moments, including Magali walking down the aisle with both of her parents. Magali also wore a necklace containing a diamond her grandfather gave to her mother before his passing. The ceremony also featured readings from Petar’s cousin, which was in Croatian, and Magali’s cousin, which was in French – both in celebration and honor of their heritages.

The bridal party was just as special, and consisted of numerous relatives and friends. On Magali’s side were maid-of-honors Lauren Johnson and Alyse Intagliata; and bridesmaids Janessa Reyes, Lisa Vidov, Kristen Boskovich, Kristin Montti, Stacie Ayala, and Katie Tamayo. On Petar’s side were best men Mark Blazevic and Michael Blazevic; and groomsmen Serge Martin, Peter Hazdovac, Drew Varela, Loren Blazevic, Brian Ayala, and Joe Vidov.

After the ceremony, Petar and Magali went to take photos with his grandmother at her home because she couldn’t make it to the ceremony, a moment that meant a lot to both Petar and his grandmother. Meanwhile, guests got to enjoy Croatian spirits during the cocktail hour.

The reception followed at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, where guests participated in lots of dancing, drinking, and of course, Croatian desserts and Kolo dancing (the popular Croatian folk dance). The reception also featured a blessing by Petar’s mother and a speech by Magali’s mother. Petar and Magali shared their first dance to Jason Mraz’s, “I Won’t Give Up.”

The newly married couple honeymooned in Hawaii, where they spent 10 days between the islands of Maui and Oahu. Their favorite part? Staying at the very private, exclusive Turtle Bay Resort in North Shore, Oahu.

Currently, Petar works as a railroad conductor for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Co., and Magali works as a tutor for Academics Etc. in Lunada Bay.

In regards to adjusting to married life, Magali says, “It’s really not that much different than before – besides the fact that I have to change my name on everything!” All joking aside, the two are excited to continue in their love through marriage, and are looking forward to someday starting a family. spt

A Lifetime in the Making

(photos by John Mattera Photography)

Ryan and Jenna Lusic’s love was a lifetime in the making. Having both come from Croatian families and being raised in San Pedro, Ryan and Jenna grew up knowing each other, and working alongside the other’s family.
The history between their families runs deep, as both of their didas (grandfathers) were involved with the Dalmatian-American Club. Ryan’s dida ran the catering for the club with Jenna’s mom and aunt both waitressing for him. When he passed away, Ryan’s dad and two uncles took over and Jenna, her sister and cousins began work there while Ryan bartended. Likewise, Jenna’s dida was the manager at Glendale Federal Bank where Ryan’s mom worked for many years.

However, it wasn’t until Jenna and Ryan worked together a second time that they realized they wanted more than a friendship.

Jenna, 26, daughter of Tim and Margie Meadows, began working at the Trump National Golf Club when she was 18. Ryan (or “Hatch” – a nickname given by his dad when he was born because of his “hatchet head”), 31, son of Nick and Kris Lusic, began working at Trump when he was 20. But because he is five years older than Jenna, he had already been working at Trump for three years by the time Jenna joined the staff.

The staff would often get together after work to hang out, which resulted in Hatch and Jenna’s friendship blooming into something more. In May 2006, they began dating. As Jenna would puts it, “Everything just fell into place.” So much so, they got their first dog, Bailey, together the very next year. In 2008, they took their relationship to the next level and moved in together. Then came their beautiful daughter Camryn in June 2009, an addition to their lives that brought much joy.

“We knew we did things a little out of order,” admits Jenna. “But to us, we were committed to each other, and marriage wasn’t a big priority at the time.” That is, until Hatch surprised her with a marriage proposal in October 2011.

Here’s how it went down: Hatch and Jenna, as well as all of Hatch’s family, met at Trump’s for dinner, celebrating his sister and brother-in-law’s seven-year wedding anniversary. The setting wasn’t unusual to Jenna as they often went to Trump’s for dinner. Hatch took Camryn to the back to show her off to the cooks (one of which was Jenna’s cousin Matt). This too was not unusual as Hatch still worked at Trump’s and liked to show Camryn off whenever she was around. Five minutes later, Camryn waddled of the kitchen holding a black box. Close behind were Hatch and Matt, who had a dessert platter in his hand. When Matt put the plate down, Jenna read “Will You Marry Me, Jenna?” spelled out in chocolate syrup. Hatch got down on one knee and proposed only to be answered with an exclamatory “YES!”

“Hatch did such a good job of surprising me,” says Jenna. “He really threw me off by using his sister’s anniversary as an excuse and having his whole family there.” It wasn’t long after that they decided to get married on April 14, 2012, a date that has significant meaning as Jenna had to get married on an “even numbered day.”

“I have a weird superstition with even numbers,” she explains. “I was born on February 4, 1986, was one of four kids, and had an even number on my basketball jersey in high school. I’m sure it’s the OCD in me but everything has to be even numbered – even the number of the gas pump I pull up to. So my wedding day was no different.” Not only is April 14 an even date, it’s also Hatch’s birthday, a factor that made the day even more special.

Having grown up in San Pedro, Hatch and Jenna couldn’t imagine celebrating their day anywhere else. Their ceremony, which was at Trump’s, hosted 300 guests and featured numerous meaningful moments, including Hatch walking Camryn down the aisle, something he was adamant about doing knowing he’d only get the chance to do so one other time in his life when she gets married. Then, as Jenna began her walk down the aisle – to the tune of Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” – Hatch met her half way, coming to the altar as one. Additionally, their close friend Jason Dorio conducted the ceremony, and Jenna’s grandmother Joann and uncle Mike said a prayer and shared a blessing during the ceremony.

Hatch and Jenna also wanted to include all of their closest relatives and friends within the bridal party. On Jenna’s side were Maid of Honor Andria Kordic (Hatch’s sister) and Bridesmaids Katie Barich, Kelsie Barich, Christina LoGrande, Heather Thomas, Leea Sarmiento, Selena DeHart, Meghan Smith, Krysalynn Brown, Cara Williams, Danielle Herrera, and Breanna Stipicevich. Junior bridesmaid was Karly Kordic, and the flower girls were Camryn Lusic and Kelsey Kordic.

On Hatch’s side were Best Men Steve Kordic and Chris Lusic, and Groomsmen Matt Meadows, Rick Sysak, Bobby Fain, Danny Fain, Rob Piñel, David Hernandez, Ryan Diaz, Matt Bommarito, Aaron Reynolds, and Danny Sandoval. The ring bearer was Steven Kordic.

The day continued with the reception at Michael’s Tuscany Room, where guests enjoyed taking photos in a photo booth and danced well into the night. “Everything about our day was great,” gushes Jenna. “Our bridal party was amazing and everything just went our way.”

The newlyweds honeymooned in Las Vegas for three days, where they stayed at the New York New York Hotel and Casino and went zip lining and rode roller coasters.

Currently, Hatch and Jenna reside in San Pedro and are excited as Camryn enters pre-school this year. Jenna is a hair stylist at Andre’s Hair Studio, and Hatch is still bartending at Trump’s, works as a longshoreman, and sometimes DJs at places such as Crimson and San Pedro Brewing Co. on the side. There’s also a possibility of Baby #2 sometime next year.

“It’s funny how you can go your whole life thinking marriage was just about a piece of paper,” says Jenna. “But it really is more of an affirmation to each other. It’s special to be husband and wife and it makes the everyday routine more meaningful.” spt