A pocket romance

So I bought this book today. It’s a French-English/English-French pocket dictionary.

The reason I bought it is because this is the back endpaper:

98 years ago tomorrow, a WWI sailor stationed in Pauillac, France wrote his name in the dictionary. That’s pretty cool. But then I saw this:


It’s a bit hard to make out in the photo, but it reads

“Juillet 7,  18
Melle (Mlle?) Suzanne Hosteingt
Anseillan Pauillac
Médoc gironde
I love you
I lovv you”

Did they use this dictionary to talk with each other, translating piecemeal as needed? Did they manage to fall in love, despite not sharing a language? It looks like she even practiced writing her (new? soon-to-be-new?) name below his own— with a slight mistake likely the result of habit, considering her maiden name.

Speaking of her name: She’s titled Mademoiselle (Melle/Mlle), but is Hosteingt French? German? Dutch? I haven’t the slightest clue, but it makes it hard to know if she was from the area or a nurse or something else.

And finally, on the front endpaper:

By this point, I was curious to know more about their story. So I did a little extra research and was able to find Wusthoff’s draft registration:


Hometown boy, cool! Born Jan 31, 1895 enlisted 1917, single, with a mother relying on him for financial support. Worked as a laborer for Gulf Bay Co. 5’7 with blue eyes and light hair with a slender build. Now let’s move on to census records. Well, he made it back home, which is great. But then I see something unexpected.

1930 census, spouse: Louise Wusthoff. Louise?

Son: Charles F. Wusthoff, Jr, born 1922.

Where’s Suzanne? What happened to her?

Did they ever actually get married? Were the irreconcilable differences? Was she killed in the war, or maybe in the flu epidemic? Did she start going by her middle name, which happened to be Louise?

So now I have a love story and a mystery. And maybe a tragedy. I’m not sure what happened to Suzanne, but I know Mr. Wusthoff died in 1971. He’s buried with his wife Louise in Metairie Cemetery. He also kept the dictionary. It was recently sold in a estate sale, possibly a result of the death of his grandson in 2013.

I’d love to know the details of what happened, but that story is probably lost to history.