David Frantz Jr. died Jan. 19 in Tiverton, R.I. He was 91 and was a former well-known Vineyard Haven resident with a bent for the sea, an ear for classical string music and a deep and abiding affection for the Island way of life.
David Herr Frantz Jr. was born on Sept. 18, 1922 in Lancaster, Pa. He was the son of David Herr Frantz Sr. and Edna Bachman Frantz. He grew up in Lansdowne, Pa., and attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before joining the Naval Air Forces in World War II. He was stationed in the Philippines and flew as a copilot and navigator with a patrol bombing squadron (VPB-119) in 1944 and 1945. Later he enrolled at MIT to complete his bachelor’s (1947) and master’s (1948) degrees in mechanical engineering. He married his first wife, Margaret (Tebby) Tebbetts, in 1944 and had daughters Heidi Frantz-Dale and Katherine (Trinka) Frantz.
He worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in instrument design and testing. In 1961, he and Al Wilson founded Ocean Research Equipment (ORE). The company became successful in building undersea sonic devices and flow meters. They ran the business from a place near the Vineyard airport for two years before relocating it to Falmouth, where David commuted to work from the Island.
In 1965 he married Beatrice (B) Bensaude. They lived on Martha’s Vineyard where he was active in the Vineyard Sinfonietta as a violinist for many years. He was an avid sailor, cruising with his wife to Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in their boat Nashawena. He had also owned Tracker, a famous lobster and picnic boat that now belongs to Randy Jardin, a skipper for the seagoing Packer operation in Vineyard Haven.
David had many sailing adventures, some of them chronicled in the Gazette. In 1959 the newspaper ran a story about his trip from Bermuda to Woods Hole on the Aries, a ketch that had been given to the Oceanographic, with his friend Jan Hahn, a former Island resident and photographer. En route, they encountered a March gale with 30-foot seas and 70-mile-an-hour winds. “The height of the towering seas could be estimated in a dangerous way, by a climb into the rigging . . . Mr. Frantz . . . had to go up thirty feet before he was even with the peaks of the waves,” the story reported. But David Frantz the sailor had other worries. “We were more frightened of the fog than the storm,” he recalled to the Gazette. “We had lost our port running light and masthead light the first day of the storm and we made sure to cross the eastward steamship lane by day. Yes, we thought of the Andrea Doria.”
David and B were also frequent travelers to Europe. In recent years he had traveled to Iceland, Alaska and Lake Baikal, Russia and to Turkey in 2006 for the solar eclipse. He had a lifelong passion for trains.
Through the years, he sporadically wrote letters to the Gazette on subjects ranging from the Steamship Authority to parking ticket policies in his home town. The last one was in 2006, deftly taking the newspaper to task following an interview with the Rev. Alden Besse. “I hope that the Reverend Mr. Besse and I have more in common than this, but we octogenarians must point out that we are in our ninth decade,” Mr. Frantz wrote.
He is survived by wife, B Frantz; daughters Heidi Frantz-Dale of Madison, N.H., and Katherine Frantz of Wayne, Pa.; grandsons Ben Frantzdale of Worcester and Christopher Dale of Valley Center, Calif.; great-granddaughters Alice and Anna Frantzdale of Worcester; and stepsons Stephen Terry Bachman of Baltimore, Md., and Glenn Bachman of New Bedford.
His ashes will be scattered at sea from his boat, Tracker.
Donations in his memory may be sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, One Hospital Road, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.