From the moment they were married on Valentine’s Day in 1956, Robert and Melba McGee did everything together.
They worked for the same state hospital. They welcomed guests to their home nearly every weekend. And on occasion, they would even sing together.
Family members said it was only fitting then that the Benson-area couple died together after 58 years of marriage. The McGees were killed Sept. 17 in a traffic accident on N.C. 210 near Lassiter Road.
Jaime Ackley, a niece, said the McGees were soul mates. “They were inseparable,” she said. “There are no other words to describe it – just inseparable. Where one was, so was the other.”
Robert, 81, and Melba, 79, fell in love when they were teenagers and married in their early 20s. Both were retired from Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh. On the side, Robert farmed and had a taxidermy business on the couple’s land.
Eventually, they turned the taxidermy barn into Beaver Creek Music Hall, where crowds gathered nearly every weekend to hear live music, said Alice Cox, Robert’s sister.
Robert played guitar with Southern Rain, a band he formed with family, friends and a young neighbor he had taught to play banjo. Melba would cook hot dogs and socialize with the guests. She rarely sang, except on special occasions when her husband would ask her to join him for “Even the Bad Times Are Good” by George Jones. It was their song and played at their funeral.
The free weekly concerts drew as many as 100 people, Cox said. “It was just a clean place to go – no drinking, no smoking inside,” she said. “It was a family thing.”
The McGees had no children of their own but were strong presences in the lives of their nieces and nephews, said another niece, Pat Penny. Penny’s husband, David, played music with Robert McGee for nearly 50 years, his wife said.
Penny said her aunt and uncle were local icons whose love of life and of each other was evident in the way they treated others.
“If I introduced [my uncle] to anybody, first thing he’d do is grab your neck and shake your hand,” Penny said.
The McGees spent their last weekend on earth at Penny’s Lake Gaston house, relaxing and enjoying time with their family, which was among their favorite things to do.
“We all had a blessed weekend together,” Cox said.
On Sept. 17, the McGees were westbound on N.C. 210 when a 2015 Chevrolet pickup crossed the centerline and struck their 2005 Dodge pickup. The couple died instantly. The Chevrolet’s driver, 19-year-old David Michael Walker Jr. of Evan Road, Princeton, escaped serious injury. He was charged with misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle and driving left of center.
Penny said the family is devastated by the loss but glad neither had to live without the other.
“They would have wanted to go together,” she said. “They were always excited to be together.”