Ted and Dora McGee sitting close together on rocks in a stream.

Ted and Dora McGee

By their own admission, Ted and Dora McGee rushed into marriage, meeting in college in Riverside, California, the Sunday before Halloween and getting engaged on their first date less than a week later. Four months later they married, and although some people said it would never last, here they are 54 years later continuing to live life their way.

“We have always shared many activities together, from sailing to SCUBA, as well as travel and photography,” said Ted. “And we’ve lived in some very interesting places, including living in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for fours years while I was in the Navy.”

The couple moved to Atlanta when both were transferred for work – Ted with Siemens as an instructor and Dora who worked for ACE Hardware Corp.

“We’ve been around the country twice with work and in the 1990s we decided to make Atlanta home,” he said. “We finished out our careers here, made many good friends and it’s a great place to live.”

In 2000 they joined Lake Lanier Sailing Club to continue their love of sailing and racing. Ever since they’ve been active in the club and have participated in races.

They often take their C-22 – Rhapsody in seA – to regattas across the country, as well as serving on race committees for the past 20 or so years. Ted is a regional race officer and a club judge; He also teaches race committee techniques. “Dora is always there helping out with the races,” he said. “She is the race timer and racers appreciate her calm instructions and countdowns during a start sequence.”

The couple has been active with the Catalina National Sailing Association since 1996, competing in regattas across the country. Ted has served as commodore of the C-22 Association and Dora is currently secretary. Last summer, they went to Arkansas as part of the race committee for the C-22 National Regatta.

A return to Cuba saw Ted and Dora serving as race officers for the Yacht Race to Havana in 2017. The race was revived that year after 58 years, originating in Key West and ending in Havana.

“We were invited back two years later where I was principal race officer and Dora did timing – in English and Spanish. That was quite an experience for both of us.”

Until recently, they’ve kept two boats, one for racing and a second boat that’s more for cruising.

Retirement has given them room to just relax and enjoy life. Dora retired in 2015 and Ted the year after, and ever since, as Ted said, “We’ve just been having fun traveling and sailing.”

Their daughter Karen lives in Gainesville and has two adult granddaughters who live in Canton and Cumming. The couple’s great-granddaughter lives in Jasper and their great-grandson lives in Cumming.

They’ve traveled to the Arctic Circle and Norway and have made two journeys to Ireland. Trips to Canada, Alaska and Hawaii have been complemented by trips to Mexico, the Bahamas, and all 50 states. Still on a bucket list is Italy, Scotland, and England. Their favorite places are all in the United States – the Outer Banks, San Francisco, the mountains of Northern California, Death Valley, and the coast along South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Capturing scenes from life

A still life photo taken by Ted McGee. It has various fishing items like a fishing net, basket, reel, rod.

Gone Fishing. A still life photo by Ted McGee.

In the past eight or so years, they’ve been able to dig back into a life-long pursuit for Ted: photography. From landscapes to still lifes, they work together to create artist-quality images.

“I’ve been making photographs since I was 14 years old, when my father gave me a Polaroid to make photographs of all the customers of his dry-cleaning business, but that idea quickly passed. However, my love of photography was born and I started taking pictures of everything I could.”

In high school he joined the school newspaper as sports photographer.

“I moved up from the Polaroid and for a class project I made a book – the story of the genesis of creation – from a 16-year-old’s point of view.”

He said at one time he had dreams of a career as a portrait photographer. “Life intervened about the same time that I realized I would never be able to turn it into a business, so I enlisted in the Navy.”

These days, he and Dora double-team their photography. Dora creates the still-life setups and provides lighting in an unconventional way – using a small LED flashlight to bathe the subjects in light while Ted makes the photographs with his Nikon mirrorless camera.

“We’ve photographed so many ‘found items,’ such as antique fishing gear, a violin with a bow and a hymnal, and an old red toolbox with some antique tools,” Ted said. “We’ll often browse antique shops or flea markets for subject matter, then almost get lost in working with the objects, light and shadows.”

They also work with astral-photography, making multiple images of far-away galaxies or astronomical events from total solar eclipses and the Milky Way to nebula and close-ups of the surface of the moon. And, of course, he photographs sailboats.

Their newest chapter

Just recently, they’ve embarked on a new project; Ted has been named Junior Sailing Program Director for LLSC.

“We wanted to give back to the club that has been so good to us,” he said. “When we offered, managing the Junior Sailing Program was the last place I expected to be.”

It all started when they asked the club’s officers how they could help.

“We’ve been working with the Board of Governors to develop a robust program for the juniors, not only for the 4-week summer sailing camp but also to build a year-round program,” Ted said. “And we’ll be working with the high-school sailing team as well.”

For the couple, working with youth is nothing new. Over the years, they’ve donated their time to youth groups in the churches they have attended.

“We enjoy working with young people and it’s like they become our kids,” he said. “With four weeks of instruction for this summer’s junior camp, we’re putting together a wide and varied program for all levels of young sailors, from a basic learn-to-sail using Optis, C420s, Lasers and Bics to a special guppie week for kids too young to join our standard Opti program.”

McGee is quick to point out that many of the sailors from the Lake Lanier Junior Program are making names for themselves regionally and nationally.

“Sailors in our Junior Program have already competed in Charleston Race Week, as well as other venues nationally and internationally, and there are others who are looking at events at this level.”

Ted and Dora McGee said they are very excited to share their love of sailing with aspiring young people.

“Dora and I both see ourselves as pretty young and adventurous,” he said with a smile. “And as far as we’re concerned the adventures will continue, particularly as we help these junior sailors learn about sailing, sportsmanship and themselves.”

Photo of Dora and Ted McGee: by Steve Rich, all other photos by Ted McGee.