Ralph Walter McGehee Jr

FALMOUTH – We mourn the loss of our dear father, Ralph Walter McGehee Jr., on May 2, 2020, at the Falmouth by the Sea nursing home in Falmouth, Maine. He was 92.

Diagnosed with Covid-19 a week ago, our father could not receive visitors, but family could stand outside his window with signs and occasional shouts of love and encouragement. Dad responded with good cheer, jokes, and a few days ago even joined in singing the Notre Dame fight song. We are grateful for the extraordinary care and attention of the Falmouth by the Sea nursing home staff over the past eight years, and particularly during his final days. They have been selfless, courageous, and compassionate during this coronavirus crisis.Our Dad arrived in Maine in 2012 following the death of our beloved mother, Norma, to whom he was a devoted and loving husband for 60 years. Falmouth was the last stop in a lifetime journey around the globe from Chicago to Notre Dame, to Washington, D.C., Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Virginia and Florida. From his boyhood in south-side Chicago, he went on to become a starting tackle on three national champion Notre Dame football teams. He is, we believe, the last surviving player from the 1946-1949 teams, often called the “greatest college team ever”.

From 1952 to 1978, he served our country as an intelligence officer in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). While in Thailand he implemented an innovative educational and humanitarian program with the Thai government to retain the allegiance of upcountry residents. He worked to implement the same outreach program in South Vietnam while endeavoring to call attention in his intelligence reporting to the unexpectedly strong allegiance he encountered among the South Vietnamese to the Vietcong. Upon his retirement from the CIA in 1977 he was awarded the Agency’s Career Intelligence Medal. His continuing concerns about the importance of accurate and unbiased intelligence to national security compelled him to write a book – without revealing classified information – challenging the Agency’s reporting. The CIA attempted to ban the book, but with the help of the ACLU our father successfully defended his right to publicize his concerns. His book, Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA, was published in 1983. For two decades following his retirement, he authored opinion articles in national publications and was a worldwide speaker and scholar on the need for reform of CIA intelligence operations. He developed CIABASE, a computer database of CIA matters compiled from all available public information, which became a key resource for researchers of US foreign policy and CIA operations.

Our dad is a hero to us. He maintained integrity in service to his country in the face of strong institutional opposition. His example has inspired his family to seek to live by the same principles of service and integrity. We celebrate his rich legacy with great pride.

Our father is survived by we four children: Peggy McGehee Horton (married to Andrew Marcus Horton), Jean Marteski (partner to Harold Cockerill), Scott McGehee (married to Lisa Carle), and Keenan Dakota. He also leaves behind ten grandchildren: Rachel Horton White, (married to Christopher White); Joanna Horton McPherson (married to Thomas McPherson); Laura Horton Bergesen (married to Kevin Bergesen); Capt. John McGehee Horton, USMC (married to Shelby Aseltine); Jeffrey Marteski (married to Aritra Marteski, and whose father is Joseph Marteski); Stephen Marteski (whose father is Joseph Marteski); Madeleine McGehee; Michael McGehee (married to Charlotte Lude), Arlo Millich, and Rowan Dakota; and four great-grandchildren: Arran and Alice White; Amoryn McPherson, and Sloane Bergesen.

There will be a private service. Donations in Ralph’s name are welcomed to any Covid-19 caregivers’ fund.