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Former commodore duo take command of love, career and retirement

Curtiss and Martha Schantz recounted their years as commodores at Bird Key Yacht Club and their unlikely meeting.

Martha and Curtiss Schantz have been married for over 53 years.
Martha and Curtiss Schantz have been married for over 53 years.
Photo by Sidra Wali
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Martha Schantz wanted to put distance between herself and the Navy after growing up in a Navy family. The last thing she saw herself doing was marrying a naval officer.

Her husband, Curtiss, is a Navy veteran. 

They’ve been married for 53 years and they both have led Bird Key Yacht Club as commodores. 

Leading a yacht club, like navigating the open waters, is not without its challenges.

But just like a captain has its crew, Martha and Curtiss have each other. 

And yet, they're not boaters, they said.

Since birth, Curtiss has been surrounded by the Navy. His father was in the Navy for almost 40 years. 

Martha and Curtiss Schantz were both commodores at the Bird Key Yacht Club.
Courtesy photo

“When my father left the Navy, he was the assistant surgeon general and he was also an admiral,” said Curtiss. 

Curtiss was born in San Diego, California, in 1944 but spent most of his life in Washington, D.C. 

His brother attended the United States Naval Academy in 1963. His sister also served.

Curtiss played football for the University of Maryland in 1961 where his freshman team was undefeated.

“I was recruited to play football by Lee Corso, (sports broadcaster and football analyst for ESPN) and he sold me the story of 'local boy makes good,’ and I took that offer,” said Curtiss. 

Wanting more, Curtiss decided to attend the Naval Academy afterward. He was a midshipman majoring in engineering with a minor in Russian history. 

After he graduated from the academy in 1968, he served as a fighter pilot flying various models.

As fate would have it, he met Martha in the summer of 1965.

“I grew up in the Navy, and I said I don't want to be in this life because my father was gone for most of my life. I wasn’t into that,” said Martha.

She was born into a second-generation Navy family in Newport, Rhode Island. Her father loaned John F. Kennedy a smoke pipe, which he never got back, she explained. 

Martha went to Vassar College in New York thinking she would be far away from that life. 

“There is no naval person anywhere near campus in New York. But, I forgot about coming home in the summer in Newport,” said Martha. “My mother and Curt’s sister-in-law had met each other. They conspired.”

Curtiss was running a cruise in the Navy on the other side of the bay close to Newport, Martha explained.

“His sister-in-law asked me if her brother could call me. Well, he called and called until finally my mother said that she’d meet Curtiss and tell him that I was just a younger version of her,” said Martha. 

Shortly after, Martha and Curtiss went on a blind date. 

Although the initial meeting didn’t go as planned, the second date was a different story.

Martha reminisced about Curtiss’s voice and presence in his uniform khakis. 

Curtiss Schantz in his summer uniform.
Courtesy photo

They hit it off the second time around.

After graduating Vassar College, Martha earned a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University.

She then switched careers, moving into real estate sales. 

From there, she became the director of sales and marketing for major local and national condominium developers in Virginia Beach while Curtiss was deployed for six to eight months a year.

Curtiss moved up the ranks in the Navy until his last position, which was deputy head of naval aviation plans and requirements in the Chief of Naval Operations office. 

After 34 years, he retired from the Navy in 1995 and flew as a pilot for FedEX for almost 15 years. 

Martha retired in 2005, and Curtiss retired in 2009. 

Martha and Curtiss became full-time residents of the area in 2009. 

Martha Schantz in her marketing days.
Courtesy photo

They joined the Bird Key Yacht Club in 2013, and three months later, Martha became rear commodore.

In 2015, Martha was sworn in as the 48th commodore, making her the third woman to hold the post at BKYC.

“I went into it with the idea that we had found such a life there and even after a few months that it was a way to give back to the club because it had already given us so much,” said Martha.

She had a background in construction and product development, which helped in her role.

“I had the qualifications all of a sudden. I knew construction. I built a number of houses, not myself, but many houses, high-rise buildings and condominiums. I knew condominiums, and I knew about reserve studies. We actually built a new marina,” said Martha. “So that happened. Then the next year they came to Curt.”

Curtiss initially turned down the offer due to helping Martha while she held her various roles for three years. 

“It's a two-person job. He had run all the lecture series that we do as commodores. We run a lecture series every month, and he was the first male to take it over. He was fabulous, of course, fabulous,” said Martha.

Curtiss was sworn in as 52nd commodore of BKYC in 2019.

Both Martha and Curtiss were the first couple in BKYC’s history to have been commodores.

Now, they both enjoy their time cooking, pursuing personal passions and savoring their leisure.



Sidra Wali

Sidra Wali is a staff writer for the Longboat Key Observer. She's worked as a newspaper reporter and written for several publications and organizations as a freelancer.

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