Longtime Coronado resident, Captain Jordine Skoff Von Wantoch, U.S. Navy (Ret), died at her home on June 22, 2020 at the age of 89. In addition to a trailblazing career in the United States Navy, she was an active supporter of theater in San Diego and an intrepid world traveler.
Jordine was no stranger to adversity. She was born in the small mining town of Weston, Pennsylvania in 1931 during the Great Depression and grew up in Niagara Falls, New York, where her coal miner father moved in search of work. After graduating from the State University of New York at Albany and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, she taught English at East Detroit High School for two years.
Inspired by one of her professors at Albany, Dr. Mary E. Grenander, who served in the Navy during World War II, she joined the United States Navy in 1956. Not only did the Navy offer the opportunity to travel and serve her country, it was also one of the few jobs that offered equal pay for men and women.
Throughout her career, she sought out challenging assignments, such as cryptographer at the Naval Communications Facility in London, England, Administrative Officer at the Naval Radio Facility in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and Director of Vietnamese Language Training at the Naval Amphibious School in Coronado during the Vietnam War.
Jordine married fellow naval officer Harvey Von Wantoch in 1967, when they were both assigned to the Staff of CINCLANFLT in Norfolk, VA. They moved to Coronado in 1968. In 1970, she was instrumental in changing the Navy’s policy that at the time prevented female naval officers from also being mothers.
Unwilling to give up her career of 13 years when she became pregnant, she petitioned the chief of naval personnel to remain on active duty on the basis she could only be denied her vested interest in retirement through disciplinary action. Her well-researched request also cited other precedents and government policies. In July 1970, the Secretary of the Navy granted her a waiver on the condition she submit a request for voluntary retirement, effective as soon as she became eligible, which at the time would have been seven years later. Her daughter, Lian, was born at Coronado Hospital in October 1970, and Jordine became the first female naval officer allowed to remain on active duty to complete a normal career while raising a child.
Jordine’s successful request helped precipitate a change in the Navy’s policy on women and motherhood. Once the policy was officially changed in 1974, she again petitioned to remove the resignation letter from her file. She was promoted to Captain in 1978 and concluded her full 30 year career as Commanding Officer of Personnel Support Activity, San Diego. Her command was awarded the Silver Anchor Award from CINCPACFLT for high morale and mission achievement under her leadership. In 1986 she also became the Grey Turkey, an informal award to the longest-serving active duty female Line Officer for her “indomitable spirit of survivability.” She retired in July, 1986.
After retirement, Jordine traveled extensively, visiting all seven continents with her husband before his death in 2007. This included adventure travels in the Amazon jungle, travel on the Concorde and the Orient Express, trips to visit her daughter at her overseas postings, and trips to witness the royal wedding of William and Kate and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
Jordine was an avid supporter of theatre, particularly The Old Globe Theatre, Cygnet Theatre, and Lamb’s Players Theatre. She was a member of The Old Globe Board of Directors since 2012 and an active member of the Globe Guilders, the Globe’s volunteer auxiliary group, since 1969. She enjoyed performances at all San Diego theatres, large and small, and visited New York and London theatres regularly.
Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 8, at Sacred Heart Church in Coronado. She will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. She is survived by her daughter, Lian von Wantoch, a Foreign Service Officer currently posted in Washington DC.
Per her request, gifts in her memory, if desired, may be sent to The Old Globe’s Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 122171, San Diego, CA 92112-2171, or another theatre of your choice.