Obituary and funeral service: the Rev. Henry Royce McNeal, 81, of Watkinsville

Rev. Henry Royce McNeal (aka Big Dawg), 81, passed away peacefully at his home in Watkinsville, Georgia on November 18, 2021. Royce was born on September 10, 1940, and he was proceeded in death by his parents, Reverend Thomas and Nadine Crane McNeal, and his sister, Nancy McNeal Brown.

Royce graduated from Gainesville High School in 1958. He earned degrees from Truett-McConnell, Shorter University, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1960 Royce married his longtime childhood love, Willene Tanner. They celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary in August of 2021.

Royce had a long and fulfilling career in church ministry working with Youth, Senior Adults, and Music groups of all ages. His 61 years of Christian service included ministries at Riverbend Baptist Church, Gainesville, GA; Ninth & O Baptist Church, Louisville, KY; Culbertson Avenue Baptist Church, New Albany, IN; First Baptist Church, Winder, GA.; Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, GA; First Baptist Church, Monroe, GA. He retired from FBC Monroe in August of 2021.

Royce had two true ministry passions: missions and music. He was a pioneer in youth and family mission trips across the US and abroad. Over the years, hundreds of church members have given their time and shared their faith while on a mission trip that Royce had planned. Through music, he impacted lives by singing with the Sons of Jubal Men’s Chorale, leading a community chorus at the 1996 Olympics, directing the opening performance at the Athens Classic Center, planning seasonal ecumenical services with sister churches throughout Athens, directing special choral and orchestral performances, and leading weekly worship services. Thousands of lives have been changed and impacted as a result of his commitment to serving his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Surviving members of the family are his spouse, Willene Tanner McNeal; daughters, Lisa McNeal (Winder, GA), Rev. Leigh Clark and husband Mark (Wise, VA), Leslie Wright and husband Tresler (Monroe, GA), Lori Brown and husband Derrick (Athens, GA), sister and brother-in-law, Patricia and Dr. Gene Price; brothers and sisters-in-law, Randall and Thu Van McNeal; Dr. Reggie and Cathy McNeal; brother-in-law Terry Brown; grandchildren, Aaron Clark, Anna Clark, Blake McNeal, Lauren Brown, and Austin Brown.

The family would like to extend special thanks to St. Mary’s Hospital and the St. Mary’s Hospice staff for their excellent care. We also want to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to the people and Ministers of FBC Monroe for their outpouring of cards, prayers, and meals. Your generosity, kindness, and love for us have been overwhelming.

The family will receive visitors at Meadows Funeral Home in Monroe, Georgia on Sunday, November 21 from 2:00 pm -5:00 pm. The Celebration of Life service will be held on Monday, November 22, 2021, at 1:00 PM at the First Baptist Church of Monroe with Dr. Todd Ware and Dr. Glenn Money officiating. Interment will follow to Evergreen Memorial Park in Athens, GA.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts be made to the following FBC Monroe ministries in memory of Rev. Royce McNeal: Give to Go Mission Scholarship Fund, Senior Adult Ministry, and Music Ministry.

Meadows Funeral Home is in charge of making the arrangements. Please sign the guest book at

Reposted courtesy of Meadows Funeral Home.

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