Judy and Michael Hartley’s appreciation for Jekyll Island can trace its roots to…elementary school.
“We grew up together in Marietta (GA),” said Michael. “We met in sixth grade but didn’t start dating until our senior year.” They went to college together, got married, and moved to Chicago for graduate school.
Judy got her MBA at Emory University – “one of the few women to do so in the 1980s,” she said – and then carved out a name for herself on Wall Street from their homebase in Atlanta. Michael got his MBA at night and started a successful career in the telecom industry. Judy has since retired while Michael continues to consult.
“My family had a place on St. Simons, so we would visit the area often,” said Judy. Michael knew of the barrier islands as a child but didn’t come to know them well until later. “We would drive over to Jekyll for the traditional things: golf, the water park for kids, visiting the (Georgia Sea) Turtle Center,” he said.
The first time he and Judy experienced sunset to sunrise on Jekyll was when they were empty nesters. “We went to Whiskey, Wine and Wildlife in 2017,” said Judy. “We attended an event benefitting the (Jekyll Island) Foundation, met some great people, and went on a boat ride that enabled us to truly understand and appreciate how undeveloped the Island is.”
Today they split their time between Smyrna (GA) and Jekyll, where living in a planned community has been a pleasant surprise. “We love our Ocean Oaks neighbors,” said Judy. “They make us want to spend more time here, so it’s a balance to also be nearer to our grandchildren.”
Asked to name their favorite thing about Jekyll and neither hesitates: “The beauty.”
“As environmentalists, we like that it’s a priority to keep the Golden Isles beautiful,” said Judy. And they gifted the opportunity for others to soak in that beauty when they donated (through the Foundation) a bench by the river along the wharf in honor of her parents.
“We love that the human activities are part of the natural elements, like that you can see the water from the bike trails that wind through the trees,’ said Judy. “And the (Jekyll Island) Authority has really done a great job of ensuring things are in good repair, like the bike paths and the dunes,” said Michael.
Both laud the Authority and Foundation for the Mosaic (Jekyll Island Museum). “The interactivity offers such an opportunity for people to really understand the past, present, and future need to protect the Island,” said Michael.
Speaking of the future, the Hartleys are excited to see what’s next for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. “Just like the Mosaic, it needs to expand and be more interactive,” said Judy. “We hope it shows more of the medical miracles.”
They also look forward to more opportunities for different communities on the island to interact regularly. “North and south, new and established,” said Michael. “The uniqueness of—and appreciation for—Jekyll provides an easy common denominator.”